Flywheel Energy Storage Breakthrough in Canada

July 29, 2014

Good news from Canada for a change.

PV Tech:

The first grid-connected energy storage facility in Canada, in the country’s leading solar province, Ontario, is now operational.

The 2MW flywheel storage facility will provide regulation service to Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator, allowing it to balance increasing volumes of intermittent renewables on the grid.

Developed by storage specialist start-up NRStor and built by Temporal Power, the facility uses a spinning steel flywheel on magnetic bearings to store energy in the form of kinetic motion, rather than chemicals, as are used in battery systems.

To ‘charge’ the system, grid to power is used to drive a motor that accelerates the flywheel to high speeds. When discharging, momentum from the wheel drives the motor in reverse to act as a generator.

The so-called Minto flywheel system will allow IESO to balance the grid in real time, by matching scheduled generation with actual consumption.

Launching the project, Ontario energy minister Bob Chiarelli, said: “Energy storage technologies have the potential to revolutionise the electricity system, increasing its effectiveness, lowering costs and increasing reliability for the consumer.”



16 Responses to “Flywheel Energy Storage Breakthrough in Canada”

  1. SmarterThanYourAverageBear Says:

    Stephen Harper is sure to pass a law banning such technology as being unfair to his big oil buddies. (well that’s how it feels to live here under him at least)

  2. dugganhaas Says:

    Definitely a cool idea, but I expected a video about flywheels to show something spinning!

  3. […] The first grid-connected energy storage facility in Canada, in the country’s leading solar province, Ontario, is now operational. The 2MW flywheel stora…  […]

  4. Gingerbaker Says:

    magnetic bearings? sounds kinda dangerous.

    I used to do biology, and was always very impressed by the kinetic energy of an ultracentrifuge spinning a six pound rotor at > 100,000 rpm.

    The kinetic energy of a huge steel flywheel? I would not want to live within 50 miles of the thing.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Actually the magnetic bearings are needed to make the concept even minimally workable. Too much loss and drag with mechanical bearings, and if they break, the whole thing tends to shake itself to pieces. (And a couple of hundred yards should be more than enough of a “safety zone”)

      • Did you see where they were being installed?  They’re in concrete silos below grade.  Nothing’s going to escape the building foundations, though if one lets go you’ll hear a hell of a bang next door.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          No, didn’t see that. Makes sense, although making all that cement and rebar and digging a big hole creates a carbon deficit from the get-go.

          • Look at the video at 1:43.  Thick concrete plugs on top of the silos.  Earlier you see the systems themselves hung on cranes being carried to the silos.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Yes, it went by quickly but I saw it this time—-a LOT of concrete.

  5. rayduray Says:

    Flywheels? Well, aw shucks, fly me to the moon. 🙂

  6. Quote from the video at 2:54:

    Each one of our energy storage modules or flywheel systems has the ability to store 50 kilowatt-hours of energy, and we can output up to 500 kilowatts per machine.

    Lest anyone read too much into this, 50 kW hours / 500 kW = 0.10 hours = 6 minutes.  That is how long a fully-charged flywheel can maintain its peak power output, if called upon to do so.  This isn’t enough time to start a backup gas turbine, though it’s sufficient for slower plants providing spinning reserve to ramp their power.  It is no more than is says it is:  a system for buffering variations in supply (or demand) on a scale of seconds to a handful of minutes.  Those of you hoping for even overnight energy storage, let alone stashing the energy of March winds for August air conditioning, must look elsewhere for hope.

    Also, most flywheel systems have losses on the order of a few percent per hour (bearing drag, windage from residual gas).  There’s nothing in the video about losses.  On the plus side, flywheels can be spun down completely and left to sit without damage; batteries often suffer from being left discharged.

  7. Gingerbaker Says:

    These flywheels – I finally watched the video – are pretty small. Their role seems to be not one of providing high output for sustained periods, but to allow rapid attenuation of intermittency. Smoother output, not what most of us would consider an energy “storage” solution, yeah?

    • They allow attenuation of relatively small intermittencies.  For instance, as a way to keep power up at a site during brief outages of a line, they’d be great; likely much cheaper than batteries.

      Another possibility is to buffer surge loads.  One of my favorite targets for electrification is public transit, both rail (light and heavy) and buses.  Several 500 kW flywheel units could store dynamic braking power instead of dumping it to resistors, and use it to re-accelerate a train when it leaves the station.  A single unit would also be excellent to buffer the immediate power demands of a bus charging over something like the Busbaar system.

      I’m a bit fuzzier on how this could be an energy saver, but if it allows some fast-reacting but less-efficient OCGT units to be powered down in favor of CCGT plants running closer to optimum, that would improve everything.

  8. Good to see the Canadians doing something that doesn’t involve ripping gigantic holes in the earth and excavating billions of tons of ancient carbon ear marked for atmospheric delivery.

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