Power-to-What? – Environmental assessment of energy storage systems†
A large variety of energy storage systems are currently investigated for using surplus power from intermittent renewable energy sources. Typically, these energy storage systems are compared based on their Power-to-Power reconversion efficiency. Such a comparison, however, is inappropriate for energy storage systems not providing electric power as output. We therefore present a systematic environmental comparison of energy storage systems providing different products. As potential products, we consider the reconversion to power but also mobility, heat, fuels and chemical feedstock. Using life cycle assessment, we determine the environmental impacts avoided by using 1 MW h of surplus electricity in the energy storage systems instead of producing the same product in a conventional process. Based on data for several countries including the United States, Brazil, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom, our analysis determines the highest reduction of global warming and fossil depletion impact for using surplus power in heat pumps with hot water storage and battery electric vehicles. Third highest environmental benefits are achieved by electrical energy storage systems (pumped hydro storage, compressed air energy storage and redox flow batteries). Environmental benefits are also obtained if surplus power is used to produce hydrogen but the benefits are lower. Our environmental assessment of energy storage systems is complemented by determination of CO2 mitigation costs. The lowest CO2 mitigation costs are achieved by electrical energy storage systems.