‘Large amounts of energy storage’ can balance the US grid year-round, NREL study finds

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The synergies between daytime energy storage and solar photovoltaic are better than for wind power, although it will have an important role to play in integrating the two types of renewable energy, according to the study. Credit: Dennis Schroeder/NREL.

Energy storage will play an important role in US electric systems by 2050, providing the opportunity to replace fossil fuels with low-cost renewables and to balance supply and demand in multiple regions.

Energy storage’s ability to store overproduction from solar and wind power plants means it can contribute to the energy mix when it is most needed, according to a new report from the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). need, even in the most conservative scenarios of variable renewables. deployment.

“Network Operational Impacts of Widespread Storage Deployment” is the sixth report produced in NREL’s Future of Storage study series, released earlier this month and freely available.

NREL researchers modeled a series of scenarios for possible deployment of energy storage through 2050, including a base case, low cost battery scenario, low cost solar PV, high cost of natural gas combined with low cost batteries and a zero carbon scenario.

Even in the base case, the amount of energy storage on the grid increases to 213 GW by 2050, compared to around 23 GW installed today – with almost all installations today pumped with hydropower. , despite the rapid rise of lithium-ion which is starting to represent significant numbers. In the low cost battery scenario this figure rises to 384 GW / 1,792 GWh and in the zero carbon scenario up to 932 GW / 6,097 GWh.

The multiple applications that energy storage can serve, from ancillary grid services to energy arbitrage and capacity services, all play their part, but as the grid evolves towards higher penetration of renewables, the value of energy and capacity arbitrage is really starting to show.

Energy storage as a peaking capacity asset – storing energy produced during times when renewables are cheap and plentiful, then returning it to the grid when demand is high – is a particularly valuable will be more and more.

It is also important to note that increased deployment of energy storage may lead to less frequent use of fossil fuel generators and that avoiding polluting thermal power plant start-ups may have beneficial effects on public health, in particular for people living near these plants. .

Modeling the use of energy storage at each hour of the day. Storage closely follows peak demand, including shifting as solar power becomes more or less available. Image: NREL Storage Futures Study.

In fact, energy storage can increase the efficiency of almost any power generation asset: increase the use of solar and wind power plants that produce energy at low marginal cost and have the opposite effect on heat generators.

Synergies with PV are more consistent than for wind, the NREL researchers found, due to solar’s more predictable daily generation profile. Wind can generate more or less energy than needed for longer periods of time, making it more difficult to integrate.

NREL experts admitted that modeling the power system and factoring in higher storage and deployment of renewables is a complex undertaking, as is balancing the grid using these resources, but that it is completely doable.

“We again find that the potential future power system with large amounts of energy storage could successfully balance the load 24/7. High energy storage units operate more efficiently by storing otherwise unused renewable energy to displace expensive generation from other sources,” said study lead researcher Jennie Jorgenson.

The study focused on the deployment of daytime or daily storage with durations up to 12 hours, although the NREL team said there could be benefits from digging deeper into the role of storage further. long duration. He also noted that the relationship between storage and transport infrastructure is complex and merits further investigation.

The primary need for energy storage, as a peak capacity asset, will be constant throughout the year, but it will be most valuable for about 10 hours of each year when the grid experiences its peaks in demand. the highest. As fossil fuel-fired peak generation retires, this value increases.

NREL’s methodology for the report included using the lab’s flagship energy sector capacity planning model, called Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS), and combining it with simulation and PLEXOS energy market forecast.

ReEDS is publicly available to help the modeling and analysis community.

NREL’s Jennie Jorgenson said the “key role of energy storage technology during peak demand when the power system needs energy and capacity the most ‘remains consistent’ across all scenarios and years until now. in 2050”.

The full “Network Operational Impacts of Widespread Storage Deployment” report is available here on the NREL website.

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