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First Hybrid-Flywheel Energy Storage Plant Announced For Europe

The first grid-connected hybrid flywheel project in Europe was recently announced by Ireland’s Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. SchwungradEnergie Limited, an Irish company, is behind the project and will collaborate with the Dept. of Physics and Energy at the University of Limerick. An American company, Beacon Power, is providing some support. Rhode, Co. Offaly (in the Midlands area) will be the site of the project.

€2.55 million from the European Commission Horizon 2020 was received in December of 2014 to support the work. The project has been selected by the Irish Trasmission System Operator, EirGrid, as a demonstration.

“Flywheel technology has the advantage of being a ‘100% clean’ power source as the hybrid technology has no direct fuel use or related emissions, and no water consumption. It simply absorbs power, stores it and is continuously ready to respond to any grid requirements to rapidly inject power… It is not a power plant in the conventional sense, but operates as a shock absorber and dynamic energy support system, absorbing and re-injecting  small but highly flexible amounts of power to suit grid requirements,” said Frank Burke, Schwungrad Technical Director.

Unlike batteries, flywheels do not use chemicals, they use mechanical energy. Theoretically, this can allow them to last longer. They are nontoxic and nonflammable. A flywheel also uses no water and has no emissions.

About 55 jobs are expected to be created for the flywheel project. 30 to 40 will be needed for the construction phase, and up to another 15 will be more permanent.

Energy storage is a quickly emerging industry and typically the news is about battery systems used for storing electricity, but flywheels might work for some applications very well, as we see in the NASA video above. The more money and time that is invested in developing both technologies, the more likely it is we will see new developments that advance the whole industry.

When energy storage technology catches up with wind and solar power (in terms of maturity), there won’t be any rational argument against these clean energy sources. Even now, solar power has become much more affordable and is cost-effective in a number of countries.

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