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Storage Futures Study

Through the Storage Futures Study (SFS), NREL researchers will analyze the potentially fundamental role of energy storage in maintaining a resilient, flexible electrical grid through the year 2050.

For the SFS, NREL researchers will conduct a multiyear analysis to better understand the potential of energy storage in the power sector across a range of potential future cost and performance scenarios to the year 2050.

Through extensive power system modeling and analysis, SFS aims to answer many questions, including but not limited to:

  • How might storage effectively be deployed on the future grid?
  • How much storage will be optimal, and where would it be optimally located?
  • How does storage augment other flexibility options?
  • How does storage affect the integration of variable renewable energy and system costs?

Energy storage is proving to have several advantages for the electrical grid. It offers a backup power source when variable resources like sun and wind aren't available, and it provides grid flexibility and resilience. It can also help shift the load when there is a large amount of electricity generation to save energy for later.

As communities and entire states push toward higher percentages of power from renewables, energy storage technologies are getting attention from a variety of stakeholders including utilities, consumers, and grid system operators.

Considering a Wide Range of Energy Storage Technologies

The SFS will consider relevant and emerging energy-storage technologies across future scenarios.

Traditionally, pumped hydropower has been the most common way to store grid-scale electricity, but many energy storage technologies have emerged in recent years and are now being considered for stationary electric storage.

The U.S. Department of Energy Global Energy Storage Database counts nearly 700 projects announced, operational, or under construction across the United States that rely on myriad technologies. In addition to batteries, storage methods include flywheels, thermal storage, chilled water—and new technologies are under development.

When and where these storage technologies are cost competitive depends on how the technologies are operated and what service they provide for the grid, such as offsetting transmission or distributing energy.

Leveraging Existing Energy Storage Projects

Under the SFS, researchers also will leverage several ongoing NREL energy storage projects, including existing data products and models, to study energy storage technologies at unprecedented scale:

dGen (Distributed Generation Market Demand Model)

Electrification Futures Study

Energy Storage Grand Challenge (ESGC)

PLEXOS Power Systems Modeling

ReEDS Scenario Analysis

Technical Review Committee

Given the large range of topics to explore within energy storage for the SFS, NREL researchers will collaborate with a diverse Technical Review Committee to establish, develop, and refine the highest priorities for future scenarios.

This committee includes partners from the University of Maryland, Stanford University, Argonne National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, NextEra Analytics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York Independent System Operator, Fluence Energy, Carnegie Mellon University, First Solar, Imperial College- London, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, U.S. Energy Information Agency, and Xcel Energy.


Researchers anticipate releasing six SFS publications over the next few years:

Report 1: Details the supply curve and current and future costs for all relevant storage technologies.

Report 2: Details the various future capacity expansion scenarios and results developed through this project. This scenario analysis will be done with a strong focus on examining key research questions rather than model development.

Report 3: Details the operational characteristics of energy storage and impacts of different existing market structures on capturing value streams for energy storage, as well as impacts of seasonal storage on grid operations.

Report 4 (final summary report): Draws on the previous three reports, generates key conclusions, and summarizes the entire activity.

Two additional journal articles based on the reports.


Nate Blair