A new study by researchers at MIT shows how to evaluate the technology choices available, including batteries, pumped hydroelectric storage, and compressed air energy storage, and demonstrates that even with today’s prices for these technologies, such storage systems make good economic sense in some locations, but not yet in others. The research was just published in the journal Nature Climate Change, it was led by Jessika Trancik, the Atlantic Richfield Career Development Assistant Professor of Energy Studies at MIT and counted with the support from MIT Portugal Program.
For this study, the team examined three states: Texas, California, and Massachusetts. They found storage systems make economic sense today in Texas and California but not yet in Massachusetts. They plan to broaden the study to more locations to see if their overall conclusions apply more widely.
“Researchers and practitioners have struggled to compare the costs of different storage technologies,” Trancik explains, “because of the multiple dimensions of cost and the fact that no technology dominates along all dimensions. Storage technologies can only be compared by looking at the contexts in which they are going to be used.” But the study found that regardless of the particular circumstances at a given location, certain features of how electricity prices fluctuate are common across locations and do favor some specific types of storage solutions over others.
Surprisingly, it turned out that despite wide regional variations in the average prices and the amount of variability in demand and pricing, “the best storage technology in one location is also the best in the other,” Trancik says. “This is because of the similarity across locations in the distribution of the duration of electricity price spikes. This pattern likely emerges because of constraints imposed by the daily cycle, and similarities in when people go to work and go home, and generally how they spend their time.”
This work was supported by the MIT Portugal Program, Lockheed Martin, and the SUTD-MIT International Design Center. Jessika Trancik has been collaborating with Portuguese researchers, she has hosted Goncalo Pereira (MIT Portugal Sustainable Energy Systems PhD student in 2015) and has partnered with Carlos Silva (IST) in research soon to be published. Jessica also led a Seed project funded by MIT Portugal "Modeling the Value of Storage for Intermittent Renewable Energy".
Also at MIT News.