Energy Vault storage system at work in Castione, Switzerland. Image courtesy Energy Vault.

Long-duration energy storage for reliable renewable electricity: the realistic possibilities

By Jacqueline A. Dowling, Nathan S. Lewis, November 15, 2021

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Energy Vault storage system at work in Castione, Switzerland. Image courtesy Energy Vault.

Because a very cold polar vortex swept through much of Texas in February of 2021, everything from dispatchable natural gas facilities to intermittent wind turbines froze.[1] The power outage produced food, water, and heat shortages that either directly or indirectly led to hundreds of deaths. During the same polar vortex, natural gas plants and wind farms in Minnesota—much farther north and much colder than Texas—continued to operate. Texas electricity operators had bet on warm weather and didn’t spend the extra money to winterize equipment. Nature warned them—and us—how damaging electricity blackouts can be.

In a world of increasing climate variability, it pays to spend money on reliability. In electricity systems dominated by wind and solar generation, long-duration storage is a way to obtain it.

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Tyler H. Ruggles and Katherine Z. Rinaldi for reviewing this piece. This work was supported by 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.

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