Renewable Energy: Flywheel Technology For Energy Storage And Backup
Facilitating Backup Power Is Another FocusCurrently, flywheel technology in facility settings centers around backup power applications. These systems can replace battery backup equipment or can serve alongside it. Dann McKeraghan, vice president of sales for VYCON, a flywheel developer based in Yorba Linda, CA, says of this evolution, “UPS systems [based on batteries] have done a good job in mitigating power interruptions and conditioning ‘dirty’ power. However, facility managers have found that adding flywheels into the power continuity scheme enhances reliability, increases green initiatives, and lowers the total cost of ownership of their UPS systems.” Batteries do provide a longer backup time—about 10 minutes compared to 20 seconds from a flywheel. However, the advantage of the flywheel is that it goes into action instantaneously when the power goes out, whereas batteries can have a delay of one second or more. Meanwhile, flywheels typically have higher first costs than batteries, but proponents point to the 20 year lifespan, low maintenance, and significantly reduced cooling demands as advantages. Flywheels also occupy a smaller amount of space compared to a battery system providing comparable support. McKeraghan estimates that over a 20 year lifespan, cost savings from a hazmat free flywheel versus a five minute valve regulated lead-acid battery bank ranges from $100,000 to $200,000 per flywheel deployed. “These figures don’t include floor space or cooling cost savings that can be achieved by using the flywheel energy storage versus batteries,” he notes. As data centers and other facility types continue to evaluate and install flywheels for backup power, the technology is being recognized more in the energy arena. A 2006 Federal Technology Alert by the U.S. Department of Energy stated, “Flywheels appear poised to replace or supplement batteries as a backup power supply in UPS systems. Although the initial cost of a flywheel is typically greater than batteries it would be replacing or supplementing, its longer life and simpler maintenance will often result in lower life cycle costs.” [The July 2011 installment of TFM‘s “The Facility Technologist” references flywheel technology in backup systems.] The use of flywheels for backup power systems continues to grow. Perhaps renewable energy is the next frontier for this technology. Research for this article included information from the U.S. Department of Energy and Vycon‘s McKeraghan.
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