Energy Train Could Store 10% Of Dutch Electricity

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Many people are familiar with the basic concept of a flywheel — using electricity to spin a wheel and, when electricity is needed, generating it with the same rotating wheel.


This new energy storage concept is a little more complex, but also uses kinetic energy. Imagine a maglev train that can achieve a top speed of 2,000 km/h traveling around a circular track with a 2.5 km radius. Called the energy train, it might be able to store 10% of the Netherlands’ daily electricity.

This is not a train people would ride; it would only be for energy storage. During times when solar and wind power generated surpluses of electricity, the energy train would receive it and be set in motion. Operating within a vacuum tunnel, it could virtually fly over the maglev rails at great speeds. When the grid needs electricity, it could be converted from the energy train.

Discriminating readers will want to know not only the capacity for storage, but also for what duration: 2.5 GW for 8 hours, or 400 MW for 48 hours are the anticipated figures. Developing and making a kinetic energy storage train operational sounds like it might be very expensive — even prohibitively so. The cost has been estimated to be €1-2 billion. However, it has been estimated that building the energy train might actually only cost 10% of what other current energy storage technologies do when it comes to levelized cost of electricity.

“Storage will be an extremely important factor when we wish to increase the percentage of renewable energy from wind or solar power. This will make it possible to decommission coal and gas power stations, because they will no longer be needed,” explained ECN’s Wouter Engels, the energy train’s inventor.

Naturally, hearing about such a new technology raises many questions, like how much maintenance would be required? How reliable would the system be? Who would build it? How many workers would be required to operate it? Would there be any potential safety issues? If the first energy train was built and proved to be a success, how many more could be built?

Image Credit: ECN

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Jake Richardson

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