In international news, a Lancaster University engineering undergraduate, Abigail Carson, has invented a new design for a flywheel energy store (FES) through a self-proposed project as part of her MEng degree.

According to Renewable Energy Focus, the superfast design invented by Carson for a FES could have a wide number of uses, including the storage of electricity generated by wind and solar renewable sources.

Unique flywheel energy store

The flywheel energy store invention retains energy kinetically in a levitated floating mass. The rotor, which can be made from composites such as carbon fibre, is permanently levitated as opposed to electromagnetically, not requiring additional control mechanisms and so does not need maintenance or user input. A smart telemetry set (monitoring equipment) would be included.

From simulations and calculations, the power rating of the FES can be tailored and has the potential to reach the substantial MW range. Although with the initial aim of rotating at 100,000rpm, Carson’s research figures show the design can easily rotate at 144,000rpm without any adjustment.

Lancaster University believes this is more powerful and quicker than most existing designs, which can spin at around 60,000rpm, reported Renewable Energy Focus.

Making it ideal for domestic users, the design is approximately the size of a soccer ball and has the potential to be scaled-up for industrial applications through a stacking approach, says the University.

Futhermore, using multiple individual units on the same network means that if one is affected, the whole system would not need to be shut down – a key advantage for large single unit systems.

Flywheel energy store – advantages

The FES also offers several advantages over other energy storage devices, such as batteries.

“The lifespan of the FES is around 30 years, which is much longer than that for batteries,” said Carson.

“Batteries cannot withstand power transfer pattern variations – they suffer very badly from charging and discharging abuse. This is not a problem for the FES, which is virtually immune to this sort of abuse.

“Batteries are unable to match the ramping rate (how quickly the energy can be charged or discharged) of a FES. This is important for when large amounts of energy are needed, such as smoothing out supply and demand on large energy networks.

“In addition, my FES has a design that can be recycled, which is impossible for batteries,” stated Carson.

Professor Jianqiao Ye, Chair of Mechanical Engineering at Lancaster University and Carson’s project supervisor, said: “This invention demonstrates how a traditional technology, such as a flywheel energy store system, can be modernised to meet current demand on storage of clean energy from renewable or sustainable sources.

“The system designed by Miss Carson has a number of important features, including portable, green and an impressively high efficiency. The system, after some market-orientated developments, could find a broad range of applications, ranging from domestic devices, large-scale industry to general infrastructure.”

Carson, who has a patent pending for the design and is currently seeking investment opportunities to implement the FES, emphasised: “The flywheel energy store can be used for a vast range of applications – most significantly in providing energy security and independence for everyone globally, but also including eliminating waste in power networks, pumping water to villages and allowing for cleaner cooking and heating in developing countries, instant charging of electric vehicles, and off-grid energy storage.”

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