in Energy and Infrastructure Policy
storage technology has great potential to improve electric power grids, to
enable growth in renewable electricity generation, and to provide
alternatives to oil-derived fuels in the nation’s transportation sector.
In the electric power system, the promise of this technology lies in its potential
to increase grid efficiency and reliability—optimizing power flows and
supporting variable power supplies from wind and solar generation. In
transportation, vehicles powered by batteries or other electric
technologies have the potential to displace vehicles burning gasoline and
diesel fuel, reducing associated emissions and demand for oil.
Federal policy makers have become increasingly interested in promoting energy
storage technology as a key enabler of broad electric power and
transportation sector objectives. The Storage Technology for Renewable and
Green Energy Act of 2011 (S. 1845), introduced on November 10, 2011, and
the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Order 755, Frequency Regulation
Compensation in the Organized Wholesale Power Markets, are just two recent initiatives
intended to promote energy storage deployment in the United States. Numerous
private companies and national laboratories, many with federal support,
are engaged in storage research and development efforts across a very wide
range of technologies and applications.
This report attempts to summarize the current state of knowledge regarding
energy storage technologies for both electric power grid and electric
vehicle applications. It is intended to serve as a reference for
policymakers interested in understanding the range of technologies and applications
associated with energy storage, comparing them, when possible, in a structured
way to highlight key characteristics relevant to widespread use. While the
emphasis is on technology (including key performance metrics such as cost
and efficiency), this report also addresses the significant policy,
market, and other non-technical factors that may impede storage adoption. It considers
eight major categories of storage technology: pumped hydro, compressed air,
batteries, capacitors, superconducting magnetic energy storage, flywheels,
thermal storage, and hydrogen.
Energy storage technologies for electric applications have achieved various
levels of technical and economic maturity in the marketplace. For grid
storage, challenges include roundtrip efficiencies that range from under
30% to over 90%. Efficiency losses represent a tradeoff between the
increased cost of electricity cycled through storage, and the increased value
of greater dispatchability and other services to the grid. The capital
cost of many grid storage technologies is also very high relative to
conventional alternatives, such as gas-fired power plants, which can be
constructed quickly and are perceived as a low risk investment by both regulated
utilities and independent power producers. The existing market structures in
the electric sector also may undervalue the many services that electricity
storage can provide. For transportation storage, the current primary
challenges are the limited availability and high costs of both
battery-electric and hydrogen-fueled vehicles. Additional challenges are new
infrastructure requirements, particularly for hydrogen, which requires new
distribution and fueling infrastructure, while battery electric vehicles
are limited by range and charging times, especially when compared to
conventional gasoline vehicles.
Substantial research and development activities are underway in the United
States and elsewhere to improve the economic and technical performance of
electricity storage options. Changes to market structures and policies may
also be critical components of achieving competitiveness for electricity
storage devices. Removing non-technical barriers may be as important as
technology improvements in increasing adoption of energy storage to
improve grid and vehicle performance.
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