Wind and solar energy industries have sustained high growth rates of approximately 30% per year over the past 30 years. The development of grid-scale storage technologies will help determine whether these technologies continue to grow at high rates, and at what point these low-carbon electricity conversion technologies will be as attractive to investors as other energy sources such as natural gas, hydroelectricity and coal, that provide energy on demand. Here we address this issue by investigating the profitability of storage combined with wind and solar energy in three geographical contexts: Massachusetts, Texas, and California. This work quantifies the value of storage today (and of future, improved storage) for wind and solar energy by capturing important distinguishing cost features of diverse storage technologies. The research shows that storage technologies can increase the value of renewable energy considerably across both wind and solar energy resources. Our results provide cost performance targets that can be used to guide the future development of storage technologies for solar and wind energy.
Jessika Trancik is the Atlantic Richfield Career Development Assistant Professor of Energy Studies in the Engineering Systems Division at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is also an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. She received her B.S. in materials science and engineering from Cornell University and her Ph.D. in materials science from the University of Oxford. Before MIT, she spent several years at the Santa Fe Institute as an Omidyar Fellow, and at Columbia University as an Earth Institute Fellow, where her research focused on energy systems modeling. Her research group works on modeling the dynamic costs and environmental impacts of energy technologies to inform technology design and energy policy.