WBS - Life Cycle Assessment of Storage Technologies

Research output: NRELPresentation


Recent commitments by the Biden administration have established targets to achieve a net-zero energy system by 2050. Meeting these targets will spur a rapid transition to clean energy technologies and a commensurate need to develop and deploy energy storage technologies at scale. Pumped Storage Hydro (PSH) is expected to be part of this solution because its ability to provide grid flexibility and stability and enable the dispatching of disparate variable renewable energy technologies. Despite PSH being a mature technology with a history of deployment dating back several decades, there is very little information on the greenhouse gas (GHG) implications of PSH as compared to other storage technologies. The objective of this project is to perform a full lifecycle assessment (LCA) of new PSH projects in the U.S. This LCA includes all project phases (resource extraction, construction, operation, maintenance, end-of-life). The functional unit for this study is 1 kWh electricity delivered by system to grid substation connection point and the estimated lifetime for our base case is 80 years. Data used in this study are based on over 30 potential PSH projects that are in preliminary planning phases and are represent a wide range of potential closed-loop PSH systems in terms of location, technology, and capacity. The project approach, data sources, and modeling assumptions have been informed by a technical review committee of stakeholders that include experts from academia, national and international government, industry, and utilities. The GHGs and energy return on investment (EROI) from PSH will be compared to other storage technologies (e.g., stationary battery storage). Results from this project will improve the PSH community's understanding of the environmental impacts and sustainability of new PSH projects and how PSH compares to other storage technologies. The approach used in this project relies on open-source programming. The analysis framework (source code and data) and will be made publicly available at the end of the project. In addition to reporting results for the base case, we will perform rigorous sensitivity analysis to identify the major drivers, understand impacts of different configurations, and future energy markets. Results from this project will be published in a suitable journal.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePresented at the U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) 2022 Project Peer Review, 25-29 July 2022

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-6A20-83277


  • hydro
  • LCA
  • PSH
  • storage


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