Exploring the trade-offs between battery storage and transmission for the electrical grid

Dodamead, Sarah Emilee
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This thesis analyzes the financial, political, and technological trade-offs between two technologies—transmission and battery storage—within a capacity expansion framework in ERCOT, motivated by the need to make renewable energy affordable and reliable to decarbonize the electricity grid. The quantitative aspect of this analysis consists of modeling three scenarios within the SWITCH capacity expansion model framework: Base Case, Carbon Tax, and Heavy Electrification. The objective function the SWITCH the model solves for is a least cost matching of supply and demand within its system constraints (Fripp, 2019). The qualitative aspect of this analysis consists of research to summarize the technological, political, and financial factors that influence deployment for which the model is unable to account. The model results indicate that, regardless of decarbonization goals, the most reliable and affordable grid requires the construction of new solar and wind capacity in West Texas, where the resources are richest, and a proportional amount of a combination of transmission and energy storage capacity, though transmission capacity deployment should be more significant. Battery storage is optimally co-located with renewables and also sited near demand centers. Although the model suggests that battery storage is more valuable near the demand centers. The technological, political, and financial considerations from the qualitative analysis indicates that it is easier to raise capital and gain political support for battery projects compared to transmission projects, largely due to the modular nature of batteries. This finding suggests that energy storage deployment should be scaled up relative to the model's optimal future path