A grid-level assessment of compressed air energy storage in ERCOT
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In the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) compressed air energy storage (CAES) is currently viewed as the most promising energy storage technology due to Texas having suitable geology for CAES and few locations suitable for pumped-hydro storage. CAES is a proven technology but the economics for new facilities are uncertain. This work quantified the economic prospects for CAES in ERCOT as a function of installed wind capacity, natural gas price, and CAES capital cost. Two types of models were developed and used in this work. The first type of model was a CAES dispatch optimization model, which determined the maximum operating profits a CAES facility could earn given a set of electricity and ancillary services market prices. These models were used to examine several separate research questions relating to the maximum potential for CAES and the impact of uncertainty and other real-world complications. The models determined that the maximum operating profit from 2002-2010 varied widely from year to year and averaged $120-140/kW-year, which is likely below the operating profits required to justify investing in CAES. The models also determined that current price forecasting methods are sufficient to earn approximately 95% of the operating profits achievable with perfect knowledge of all prices in the year. The second type of model was a unit commitment model of ERCOT, which determined the least-cost operation of all the generators in the generation fleet to meet given load. The unit commitment model was used to determine electricity and ancillary service market prices under different assumptions about natural gas price, installed wind capacity, and installed CAES capacity. The CAES dispatch optimization model was then used to determine the operating profits of a CAES facility under these scenarios. CAES operating profits were found to increase with increasing natural gas price and installed wind capacity and to decrease with increasing installed CAES capacity. CAES operating profits were estimated to support installed CAES capacities from zero to more than 6 GW, depending on the natural gas price, installed wind capacity, installed CAES capacity, and the CAES capital costs. The strongest determinant of the maximum CAES capacity that would be profitable is the natural gas price, followed by the CAES capital costs.