The Value of Seasonal Energy Storage Technologies for the Integration of Wind and Solar Power

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Energy storage at all timescales, including the seasonal scale, plays a pivotal role in enabling increased penetration levels of wind and solar photovoltaic energy sources in power systems. Grid-integrated seasonal energy storage can reshape seasonal fluctuations of variable and uncertain power generation by reducing energy curtailment, replacing peak generation capacity, and providing transmission benefits. Most current literature focuses on technology cost assessments and does not characterize the potential grid benefits of seasonal storage to capture the most cost-effective solutions. We propose a model-based approach for comprehensive techno-economic assessments of grid-integrated seasonal storage. The approach has two major advantages compared to those presented in the literature. First, we do not make assumptions about the operation of the storage device, including annual cycles, asset utilization or depth of discharge. Rather, a model is used to calculate optimal storage operation profiles. Second, the model-based approach accounts for avoided power system costs, which allows us to estimate the cost effectiveness of different types of storage devices. We assess the cost competitiveness of three specific storage technologies including pumped hydro, compressed air, and hydrogen seasonal storage and explore the conditions (cost, storage duration, and efficiency) that encourage cost competitiveness for seasonal storage technologies. This study considers the Western U.S. power system with 24% to 61% of variable renewable power sources on an annual energy basis (up to 83.5% of renewable energy including hydro, geothermal, and biomass power sources). Our results indicate that for the Western U.S. power system, pumped hydro and compressed air energy storage with 1 day of discharge duration are expected to be cost-competitive in the near future. In contrast, hydrogen storage with up to 1 week of discharge duration could be cost-effective in the near future if power and energy capacity capital costs are equal to or less than ∼US$1507 kW-1 and ∼US$1.8 kWh-1 by 2025, respectively. However, based on projected power and energy capacity capital costs for 2050, hydrogen storage with up to 2 weeks of discharge duration is expected to be cost-effective in future power systems. Moreover, storage systems with greater discharge duration could be cost-competitive in the near future if greater renewable penetration levels increase arbitrage or capacity value, significant energy capital cost reductions are achieved, or revenues from additional services and new markets-e.g., reliability and resiliency-A re monetized.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1909-1922
Number of pages14
JournalEnergy and Environmental Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Royal Society of Chemistry.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5D00-76356


  • seasonal energy storage
  • solar
  • wind


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