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Storage Futures Study

Graphic of five icons interconnected with lines, including hydrogen, batteries, pumped hydropower, wind, solar, and a globe to represent diverse storage technologies and how they contribute to the grid.
The SFS considers when and where a wide range of storage technologies are cost-competitive, depending on how they're operated and what services they provide for the grid.

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

In this multiyear study, analysts are leveraging NREL energy storage projects, data, and tools to explore the role and impact of relevant and emerging energy storage technologies in the U.S. power sector across a range of potential future cost and performance scenarios through the year 2050.

The SFS—supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Storage Grand Challenge—is designed to examine the potential impact of energy storage technology advancement on the deployment of utility-scale storage and the adoption of distributed storage as well as the implications for future power system operations.

Released Publications

Conceptual Framework for Utility-Scale U.S. Storage Deployment

Released January 2021, the first report in the SFS series presents a first-of-its-kind visionary framework for the possible evolution of the stationary energy storage industry—and the power system as a whole. The vision outlines four phases from shorter to longer storage duration, which could result in hundreds of gigawatts of installed capacity and a significant shift in our electric grid, helping utilities, regulators, and developers plan for the future. Many concepts presented in the report will be further explored in upcoming SFS studies, including detailed results of the modeling and analysis of power system evolution scenarios and their operational implications.

Technical Report: The Four Phases of Utility-Scale Energy Storage Deployment: A Framework for the Expanding Role of Storage in the U.S. Power System

Summary of the Four Phases of Storage Deployment
Phase Primary Services National Deployment Potential (Capacity) in Each Phase Duration Response Speed
Deployment prior to 2010 Peaking capacity, energy time-shifting, and operating reserves 23 GW of pumped storage hydropower Mostly 8–12 hr Varies
1 Operating reserves <30 GW <1 hr Milliseconds to seconds
2 Peaking capacity 30–100 GW, strongly linked to photovoltaics deployment 2–6 hr Minutes
3 Diurnal capacity and energy time shifting 100+ GW; depends on both Phase 2 and deployment of variable renewable energy resources 4–12 hr Minutes
4 Multiday to seasonal capacity and energy time-shifting Zero to more than 250 gigawatts >12 hr Minutes

Upcoming Publications

Modeling Input Data: This publication will review the current characteristics of a broad range of mechanical, thermal, electrochemical storage technologies with applications to the power sector, including current and future cost and performance projections, and locational availability for existing technologies.

Economic Potential of Diurnal Storage: This publication will assess the economic potential for utility-scale diurnal storage and the effects that storage capacity additions could have on power system evolution and operations.

Customer Adoption Potential of Distributed Storage: This publication will use NREL's Distributed Generation Market Demand (dGen) Model to assess the potential customer adoption of distributed diurnal storage and their implications across future scenarios.

Implications of Widespread Storage Deployment: This publication will assess the operation and associated value streams of energy storage in evolution scenarios and explore the implications of storage on grid operations.

Broad Storage Insights: This will report will synthesize and summarize findings from the entire SFS series, and related analyses and reports, to identify topics for future research.

Supporting Data and Analysis

Under the SFS, researchers are leveraging supporting NREL data and analyses to study energy storage technologies at unprecedented scale:

dGen (Distributed Generation Market Demand Model)

Electrification Futures Study

Energy Storage Grand Challenge

PLEXOS Power Systems Modeling

ReEDS Scenario Analysis

Annual Technology Baseline

Technical Review Committee

To develop and refine the highest priorities, the SFS partners with a technical review committee, including the University of Maryland, Stanford University, Argonne National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, NextEra Analytics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 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.


Nate Blair

Group Manager, Distributed Systems and Storage Analysis