World's Largest Flywheel Energy Storage System
Flywheels are an ingenious way to store energy. Essentially, a giant rotor is levitated and spun in a chamber by way of magnets. Since there is very little friction, the flywheel spins continually with very little added energy input needed. Energy can then be drawn from the system on command by tapping into the spinning rotor as a generator.
Beacon Power is building the world’s largest flywheel energy storage system in Stephentown, New York. The 20-megawatt system marks a milestone in flywheel energy storage technology, as similar systems have only been applied in testing and small-scale applications.
The system utilizes 200 carbon fiber flywheels levitated in a vacuum chamber. The flywheels absorb grid energy and can steadily discharge 1-megawatt of electricity for 15 minutes. The system takes the place of supplemental natural gas power plants that have been used to balance supply and demand in grid activity prior, boosting energy production during peak demand, and lowering production during peak supply.
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Beacon Power received a $43 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy for construction of the facility. The company is planning to apply the technology to further applications, such as buffering energy generation from renewables like wind and solar power. Where these renewable technologies fall short is the inability to store energy without the use of gigantic battery banks. The flywheel system offers an alternative.
Beacon Power reports that 18-megawatts from the new flywheel storage system are already online, and the system will be operating at full capacity by the end of June.
Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
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Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly