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NSF for Energy Storage


PI: Ines Azevedo and Eric Hittinger



This research will investigate the environmental effects of energy storage operation in the United States, using life-cycle assessment and electricity system engineering-economic modeling. The first objective of the proposed work is to understand the climate, health and environmental effects of operating energy storage devices on the electricity grid. The second objective is to propose new electricity system policies that allow the economic benefits of storage to be captured without causing inadvertent system emissions.

Energy storage deployments are expected to increase rapidly in the coming years, but the environmental consequences of their operation phase are generally unknown. The proposed effort will build on the co- PIs' prior work on the topic and estimate the emissions effects of several different energy storage technologies providing energy arbitrage, renewable energy integration, and frequency regulation services. This will be accomplished using electricity system modeling approaches, marginal emissions factors, and emissions-related damage estimation tools. Analysis will also include an evaluation of a variety of likely policy interventions that can improve the environmental footprint of energy storage, including performance standards and alternative operational strategies.

Intellectual Merit:

Investigation into the net system emissions resulting from energy storage operations has not been formally investigated in the past, and the proposed work is intended to establish research methods and tools for this new research area. As part of this work, existing concepts will be coupled in novel ways, combining energy storage operational models with marginal emissions factors to estimate climate, health and environmental impacts. Part of the effort will develop new forecasts of marginal emissions factors into the future, for use in both the proposed work and by other researchers examining the expected effects of future changes to the electricity grid. Finally, policy or market limitations on new energy storage, which have not been considered up to now, will be an integral part of the research effort. For the policy analysis, the modeling described above will be coupled with possible policy interventions into energy storage design, deployment, and operation.

Broader Impacts:

Energy storage will be rapidly adopted in the coming decades. Policies that ensure sustainable development of these technologies are needed before large-scale deployment occurs. The main objectives of this project are to understand unintended consequences, such as a potential increase in emissions from storage adoption and operations, and to suggest prudent policy limitations for the technology. The results of this work can be directly used in the formation of new policy. These efforts will result in important sustainability and social benefits through decreased electricity system emissions into the future.

In addition to advising the policy process, project activities include participation of both PhD and undergraduate research assistants, through an undergraduate summer research program. Additional education and outreach activities include integration of research examples and activities into undergraduate and graduate education and participation of high school students in summer educational programs. Finally, the public will be engaged in a novel way through development of a freely-distributed "Emissions and Renewables" expansion to the popular board game Power Grid.