Flywheels- Energy Storage Technology for a Sustainable Future

Reliability has been a challenge for renewable power generation. Unlike fossil fuels, renewables can be more difficult to predict and control as they are largely dependent on weather conditions. Though solar and wind farms can be located in places where the prevalent weather is good for generation, it still does not provide enough assurance for energy reliability. The challenges become more pronounced because many of the areas with the highest levels of energy consumption are in temperate climates that tend to have less stable conditions.

Traditionally, batteries have filled the gap, storing excess energy during peak generation times and releasing it when generation falls or demand peaks. However, Kinetic Energy Storage Systems solutions now offer a more sustainable alternative. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps the most significant advantage of batteries is that they are familiar to most users. Although the technology continues to improve, the basics have remained the same from the first batteries. A battery is, essentially, a controlled chemical reaction, which either holds or provides power depending on the direction of the reaction, allowing them to hold and discharge a steady current. It means engineers have a large pool of experience using them alongside generation.

However, they do have drawbacks. One is that they take a long time to charge, and the bigger they are, the longer they take, which presents a problem for grid-scale energy storage. Perhaps the biggest drawback comes from their lifecycle and production requirements. There is a high financial and environmental cost in extracting the chemicals used in batteries. They have short lifespans, losing efficiency with each charging cycle and typically last less than five years.

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Using flywheels as kinetic energy storage in Australia avoids some of these drawbacks. Although they might not be as familiar to consumers, they have been in use for hundreds of years, and the physics of flywheels are well understood. Silicon Valley based Energy Storage Company, Amber Kinetics, successfully developed flywheel technology to extend the typical discharge duration of minutes to hours making it the only long duration Kinetic Energy storage system in the world. Their flagship product, the M32 flywheel, has a discharge duration of 4 hours and a power capacity of 8kW. Additionally, they do not carry the same environmental implications as their competitors. The Amber Kinetics M32 is made of recyclable steel and has a 30-year lifespan, providing a more sustainable energy storage solution.

The challenge of flywheels is that it is perceived to be a relatively new energy storage technology. However, the viability of kinetic energy storage solutions has been established as companies such as Amber Kinetics successfully deploy their technology across the globe. The company offers a scalable solution with its M32 flywheel model, providing anything from 8kW from a single unit to hundreds for megawatt sized power. While batteries might still be the dominant form of energy storage used alongside renewable production, the adoption of kinetic energy storage is growing and is likely to be the future and new frontier of renewable energy management.

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