Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries to Reach Greenhouse Gas Emissions Targets in an Off-Grid Configuration
Energy storage may serve as a solution to the integration challenges of high penetrations of wind, helping to reduce curtailment, provide system balancing services, and reduce emissions. This study determines the minimum cost configuration of vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFB), wind turbines, and natural gas reciprocating engines in an off-grid model. A life cycle assessment (LCA) model is developed to determine the system configuration needed to achieve a variety of CO2-eq emissions targets. The relationship between total system costs and life cycle emissions are used to optimize the generation mixes to achieve emissions targets at the least cost and determine when VRFBs are preferable over wind curtailment. Different greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets are defined for the off-grid system and the minimum cost resource configuration is determined to meet those targets. This approach determines when the use of VRFBs is more cost effective than wind curtailment in reaching GHG emissions targets. The research demonstrates that while incorporating energy storage consistently reduces life cycle carbon emissions, it is not cost effective to reduce curtailment except under very low emission targets (190 g of CO2-eq/kW h and less for the examined system). This suggests that “overbuilding” wind is a more viable option to reduce life cycle emissions for all but the most ambitious carbon mitigation targets. The findings show that adding VRFB as energy storage could be economically preferable only when wind curtailment exceeds 66% for the examined system. The results were most sensitive to VRFB costs, natural gas upstream emissions (e.g. methane leakage), and wind capital cost.