Storage systems can make economic sense for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, according to new research.
The renewable energy sector (mainly wind and solar industry) has grown rapidly in recent years, but its future growth will depend on whether it can compete with alternatives that provide high-value energy on demand. This could be achieved with the installation of large-scale energy storage systems that can capture power when it’s available and release it on demand. But still, in which investments are they really needed and which storage technology is appropriate? MIT scientists formulated a method to evaluate diverse storage technologies with varying performance and set cost improvement targets.
‘Researchers and practitioners have struggled to compare the costs of different [energy] storage technologies, because of the multiple dimensions of cost and the fact that no technology dominates along all dimensions’, says Jessika Trancik, the Atlantic Richfield Career Development Assistant Professor of Energy Studies at MIT. ‘Storage technologies can only be compared by looking at the contexts in which they are going to be used (…) The overall idea is to use data and models to accelerate energy technology development’.
The study, published last month in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows that some storage technologies of today can add value to solar and wind energy, but cost reduction is needed to reach widespread profitability. The best cost-improvement practices, balancing energy and power costs to maximize value, are found to be relatively location invariant, and thus can define broad industry and government technology development strategies. And regardless of the particular circumstances at a given location, some specific types of storage solutions overmatch others, due to the fact that certain features of how electricity prices fluctuate are common across locations. According to the study though, the costs of such systems nowadays don’t yet make them profitable enough without policy support, so their popularity remains low. And, of course, as the cost of wind and solar power systems comes down, the cost of storage systems will need to come down as well in order for them to be effective.
Source: MIT News