Flywheel energy storage is not frequently talked about in the larger scheme of environmental sustainability, but it’s actually a longstanding method of storing energy that dates back centuries. Amidst rising demand for stable energy storage facilities, flywheel energy storage technology has developed substantially over the years.
A flywheel is a mechanical device that consists of a rotating wheel (rotor). The device stores kinetic energy generated from spinning at high speeds and can convert stored energy into electrical power when needed.
A motor is used to control the speed of the device depending on energy demand. When excess electricity is available, the motor accelerates the flywheel to achieve a higher speed. The faster it spins, the more energy it stores. Vice versa, the flywheel is slowed down when demand increases, releasing more kinetic energy for the grid to convert into electricity.
In Shanxi Province’s city of Changzhi, a project to construct China’s first grid-level flywheel energy storage facility began in June this year. Backed by Shenzhen Energy Group, the 30MW project’s main investor, the facility’s storage system employs solutions developed by BC New Energy, a startup specializing in advanced energy storage technology. Established in December 2017, the startup focuses on R&D, manufacturing, implementation, and industrialization of large-scale flywheel energy storage technology.
The new facility is expected to commence operations in December later this year. Upon completion, it will be connected to the province’s power grid to modulate the city’s power supply and demand. It will also become the largest independent flywheel energy storage facility in China and worldwide.
Flywheel energy storage systems, compared to alternatives, are known for their quicker response times, enabling swifter modulation of grid operations. A typical flywheel energy storage system can achieve efficiency levels of over 80% in a standard charge and discharge cycle, and above 85% in systems that utilize magnetic levitation technology.
Wang Xin, assistant chairman of BC New Energy, told 36Kr that the rapid charge and discharge capabilities of flywheel energy storage systems make them the most efficient and responsive method for power grid modulation at present.
While flywheel energy storage facilities require substantial investment to be commercialized at scale, their operational lifespan of 25 years, in tandem with their low maintenance requirements, makes them a relatively cost-effective solution. Such facilities, ostensibly, also offer better returns on investment than new energy projects in general.
Despite its benefits, flywheel energy storage technology remains underutilized. According to the China Energy Storage Alliance (CNESA), flywheel energy storage accounts only for 0.1% of the total capacity of 13.1 gigawatts provided by new energy storage systems in China. Most applications in the Chinese market are pilot projects, with few commercialized products. This may indicate the need to refine some technical aspects of the technology and improve its performance.
In collaboration with North China Electric Power University, BC New Energy has established an independent R&D platform for large-scale flywheel energy storage technology. The platform will also be utilized for domestic production of the system’s equipment.
According to Wang, BC New Energy is already shifting its focus to develop short- to medium-term grid-side energy storage systems. Simultaneously, the company is engaging in the R&D of second-generation devices and solutions to expand into consumer-side energy storage and electricity price arbitrage. These efforts are aimed at broadening the company’s growth prospects.
KrASIA Connection features translated and adapted content that was originally published on 36Kr.com, this article was written by Lv Yaning.