NREL adds solar-plus-storage category to its 2021 energy cost dataset


The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) updated its 2021 Annual Technology Baseline (ATB), an energy costs analysis report, to recognize solar-plus-energy storage as a separate category for analysis.

The ATB is used to support both DOE and NREL research, as well as third-party industry-player analyses with a consistent and unified set of data about technology costs.

NREL presenters said in a recent webinar that most of the upcoming large-scale utility solar projects now include storage, making it necessary to add a new category to understand the effect of storage on costs. The largest change is an improvement of the capacity factor projections for solar-plus-storage facilities.

Another change is the inclusion of more cost categories into overall operations and maintenance (O&M) figures. Costs not typically associated with O&M but that represent ongoing costs (such as land use costs and property taxes, in addition to six other categories) have been folded into the photovoltaic O&M figures.

Data sets

The ATB explains historical trends, offers current estimates, and presents future projections for three primary cost and performance factors: capital expenditures, capacity factor, and O&M costs. The projections for these figures are based on three scenarios: conservative, moderate, and advanced technology innovation adoption timelines.

Downloadable spreadsheets, a web app, Tableau workbooks, interactive charts, and API data are available for free through NREL.

Perhaps the most critical offering of the ATB is the past, present, and future levelized cost of energy (LCOE) report. Available projections span 2019 to 2050.

2021 LCOE figures from the NREL interactive Tableau dataset.

Image: NREL

The tool also allows users to select different projections based on whether a federal investment tax credit (ITC) will be approved going forward. Users will notice that regardless of the outcome of the ITC, a lowering in the LCOE is expected for utility-scale solar PV in the two to three years approaching 2030, which NREL said will largely be driven by innovation.

Standard scenarios report

The ATB data is the core behind NREL’s Standard Scenarios suite of forward-looking power sector analysis tools. The Standard Scenarios report has served to build an Electrification Futures Study, and the Los Angeles 100% Renewable Energy Study, providing analytical support for Los Angeles County in its pursuit of 100% renewables penetration by 2045.

The Standard Scenarios suite is updated each year and is capped off with a December presentation of the findings. The most recent Standard Scenarios presentation from December 2020 can be viewed here:

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