Life Cycle Assessment of Energy Storage Systems

Luís Miguel Da Quinta E Costa Neves De Oliveira, Maarten Messagie, Joeri Van Mierlo

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


The increasing share of renewable electricity sources such as wind and solar energy as sparked in recent years, increased interest on electricity storage systems. These renewable energy sources are intermittent and require balancing to be useful in an electricity grid. Energy produced by wind and solar units should be predictable and ideally with a normalized output. These characteristics would provide the flexibility to the utility provider needed in order to use the energy with whatever strategy suites the occasion (reserve, load shift, avoid thermal balance, among others). Integrating energy storage systems in the electricity grid can facilitate the adoption towards intermittent renewable energy sources. The environmental impacts of these storage technologies are often neglected and thus, not part of the technology selection process. In this paper, we analyze the environmental performance of the most commonly used storage technologies for grid applications together with new, promising storage technologies. Using a life cycle assessment methodology we analyze the impacts of the construction, usage and disposal/end of life of each of the studied systems. Pumped hydro and compressed air storage are studied as mechanical storage systems and advanced lead acid, sodium sulphur, lithium-ion (LiPF6) and nickel-sodium-chloride batteries are addressed as electrochemical storage systems. Hydrogen production from electrolysis and subsequent usage in a proton exchange membrane fuel cell is also analyzed and compared with the other technologies. A characterization of the systems is performed and includes already implemented storage units throughout the world as strong examples and test subjects. As for the functional unit, a fair comparison between the different systems is achieved by analyzing the impact per kWh of energy delivered to the grid. The environmental impacts assessed are climate change, human toxicity, material depletion among others deemed relevant. Parameters such as life time, capacity factor, total energy delivered per cycle and material composition are used as sensitivity analyses. Different energy mixes are used in order to display scenarios where the environmental applicability of the technologies is put to the test.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherElectrabel GDF SUEZ
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2014


  • LCA
  • Life Cycle Assessment
  • Energy
  • Storage


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