UK set for first hybrid battery flywheel system

Europe's largest flywheel battery system will be installed at a research facility in the Midlands to provide frequency response services to the UK grid.

The £3.5m project, the first of its kind in the UK, brings together engineers from the University of Sheffield, flywheel specialists Schwungrad Energie and technology provider Adaptive Balancing Power.

A six month pilot at Schwungrad’s storage facility Ireland will feature two flywheels with a peak power of 500KW and 10kWh of energy storage. The system will then be sent to the University of Sheffield’s 2MW battery facility at Willenhall near Wolverhampton, where it will be upgraded with a combined capacity of 1MW and 20kWh.

University of Sheffield department of electrical and electronic engineering Dr Dan Gladwin said: “The UK national grid is becoming increasingly volatile due to the rising share of intermittent renewable energy sources. This manifests itself in deviations from the nominal 50Hz frequency as demand outweighs supply or vice versa.

“Battery and flywheel technologies can offer a rapid response, and can export and import energy enabling this technology to respond to periods of both under and over frequency.”

Spinning wheel

The hybrid flywheel system stores kinetic energy when electricity is abundant, and returns that power to the grid when there are supply shortfalls. Because it floats between two magnets in a vacuum, the wheel stays spinning until its power is needed in the grid. Then that kinetic energy is used to power turbines to generate electricity again.

Flywheels do not degrade over time compared to batteries so combining the two enables the storage system to operate more efficiently and reduce costs over the system’s lifetime.

Schwungrad Energie research manager Jake Bracken said: “When implemented at commercial scale the technology will assist in overcoming the challenges of operating a power system with increased levels of renewables.  

“The adaptive flywheel and multi-source inverter being demonstrated by this project have the potential to increase the competitiveness of the solution.”

Next level

Viable energy storage technologies are becoming increasingly important as more energy is derived from inconsistent sources such as wind and solar. With an expected 100-fold growth in the UK’s battery capacity by the end of the decade, some estimates suggest the technology could create savings for the UK to the tune of £8bn by 2030.

Experts claim that businesses that use the technology alongside energy reduction schemes and onsite renewables can take their energy management to the “next level”. Green energy supplier Ecotricity last month revealed plans to install its first energy storage project, near its head office in Stroud. Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, wants to introduce a “private energy revolution” to UK, after commencing deliveries of energy storage units that can connect with renewable energy sources.

George Ogleby

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