Ireland’s Flywheel Storage Revolution

The problem with renewables is how to store the energy for use when there’s no wind or sun.  The flywheel has been around since Neolithic times–think potters wheels–and has  many applications in industry. But the huge demand for storage to even out the intermittency of alternative energy has made governments take another look at flywheel’s storage potential.

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Schwungrad Energie Ltd is an Irish-owned innovative clean technology company backed by a consortium of Irish and international energy specialists and advisors and is supported by RR Projects, Tullamore who have extensive experience developing novel technologies for the power and energy industry. The company specialises in the installation and operation of high-energy battery/flywheel storage plants which can support stable, reliable and efficient electricity grid operation. Schwungrad is a consortium of energy specialists and financial investors and is based in Ireland.

The proposed flywheel systems would eliminate many of the disadvantages of existing battery power systems, such as low capacity, long charge times, heavy weight and short usable lifetimes.  Batteries provide storage demands and provide energy over longer durations but have more limited cycling capabilities. Unlike most batteries which only operate for a finite period (for example roughly 36 months in the case of lithium ion polymer batteries), a flywheel potentially has an indefinite working lifespan. The flywheel system can rapidly absorb short-term excess grid energy and generate energy as needed by grid operators.   The hybrid flywheel can assist in disruption mitigation, during times of unexpected demand or sudden fluctuations in energy supply and demand.

Currently, “you have many streets in the EU where, if you plugged in five electric cars at the same time, you would blackout the neighbourhood,” EU’s vice president for energy union, Maroš Šefčovič said. “We will soon be talking about many thousands of electric cars on our roads and for that we need to make sure our grids are smart, resilient and can handle new demands that are not here today.”

One of the Irish project’s co-designers, professor Noel Buckley of the University of Limerick, said that the flywheel would be able to match variable renewable energy supplies to consumer demand, whenever it arose.

520004de4446d-070113_EnergyStorage_Fig4The project has received the support of a US based company that specialises in the design, development and commercial deployment of flywheel energy storage technology at the utility scale.

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Categories: Batteries and Storage Technologies

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