Evaluating Storage Technologies for Wind and Solar Energy
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Wind and solar industries have grown rapidly in recent years but still supply only a small fraction of global electricity. The continued growth of these industries, to levels that significantly contribute to climate change mitigation, will depend on whether they can compete against alternatives that provide energy on demand. Energy storage can transform intermittent renewables for this purpose but evaluating diverse storage technologies on a common scale has proved a major challenge, due to widely varying performance along multiple cost dimensions and no dominant technology option. Here we clear a hurdle in energy storage research by devising a method to evaluate storage technologies against patterns of energy demand. Some storage technologies today are shown to add value to solar and wind energy, but cost reduction is needed to reach widespread profitability. The optimal cost improvement trajectories are found to be location invariant due to emergent characteristics of electricity prices and energy resource availability. The resulting cost targets can be used to inform technology development strategies.
Jessika Trancik is the Atlantic Richfield Career Development Associate Professor of Energy Studies in the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is also an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. She received her B.S. from Cornell University and her Ph.D. from the University of Oxford. Her research evaluates the dynamic costs and environmental impacts of energy technologies to inform and accelerate their development.