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Published September 16, 2020 | Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Role of Long-Duration Energy Storage in Variable Renewable Electricity Systems


Reliable and affordable electricity systems based on variable energy sources, such as wind and solar may depend on the ability to store large quantities of low-cost energy over long timescales. Here, we use 39 years of hourly U.S. weather data, and a macro-scale energy model to evaluate capacities and dispatch in least cost, 100% reliable electricity systems with wind and solar generation supported by long-duration storage (LDS; 10 h or greater) and battery storage. We find that the introduction of LDS lowers total system costs relative to wind-solar-battery systems, and that system costs are twice as sensitive to reductions in LDS costs as to reductions in battery costs. In least-cost systems, batteries are used primarily for intra-day storage and LDS is used primarily for inter-season and multi-year storage. Moreover, dependence on LDS increases when the system is optimized over more years. LDS technologies could improve the affordability of renewable electricity.

Additional Information

© 2020 Elsevier Inc. Received 14 May 2020, Revised 21 May 2020, Accepted 9 July 2020, Available online 6 August 2020. J.A.D. acknowledges fellowship support from the Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech. This work was also supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, a fellowship from SoCalGas in support of Low Carbon Energy Science and Policy, and a gift from Gates Ventures LLC to the Carnegie Institution for Science. The authors thank Lei Duan, and David Farnham for providing wind, solar, and demand input data. J.A.D. thanks Eric Ewing for technical assistance during manuscript preparation. Author Contributions: N.S.L. and K.C. conceived this study. J.A.D., K.C., and N.S.L. designed the analyses with contributions from K.Z.R., T.H.R., M.Y., and F.T. K.C., F.T., M.Y., and J.A.D. developed and tested the version of the model used in this study. K.Z.R. assisted with literature review, T.H.R. compiled various technology costs, and S.J.D. improved the figures and main text. J.A.D. performed the analyses and wrote the manuscript with interactive feedback from N.S.L., K.C., K.Z.R., T.H.R., S.J.D., M.Y., and F.T. All authors edited the manuscript and provided helpful discussions. The authors declare no competing interests.

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