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Bright future for long-duration storage, but costs must fall

From pv magazine USA

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University have discovered that innovative and low-cost long-duration energy storage (LDES) technologies could have a big impact on efforts to affordably decarbonize the electricity system.

The team defined LDES as a range of emerging technologies that can respond to the variable output of renewables, discharging electrons for days and even weeks, while also providing resilience to the electric grid. In a recent paper in Nature Energy, the researchers looked at whether LDES paired with renewable energy sources and short-duration energy storage options such as lithium-ion batteries could power a big, cost-effective move to a decarbonized grid. They also looked at whether LDES might end the need for low-carbon energy sources such as nuclear power and natural gas fitted with carbon capture and sequestration.

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The researchers surveyed technologies such as pumped hydropower storage, vanadium redox flow batteries, aqueous sulfur flow batteries, and firebrick resistance-heated thermal storage, among others. There were a number of key takeaways:

  • LDES technologies can offer more than a 10% reduction in the costs of deeply decarbonized electricity systems if the storage energy capacity cost remains below $20/kWh. The value could rise to 40% if energy capacity cost of future technologies is reduced to $1/kWh. The current storage energy capacity cost of batteries is around $200/kWh.
  • LDES energy capacity cost must fall below $10/kWh to replace nuclear power, but for LDES to replace all firm power options, the cost must fall below $1/kWh.

The researchers said that niche market opportunities for LDES currently exist, like in places with a lot of solar and wind already deployed, where transmission limits exist. In such places, storage could fill up when transmission is at its limit, and then export power later, while maximizing the use of power line capacity.

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Source: pv magazine