Europe’s first grid connected hybrid flywheel-battery system service facility was recently announced by Ged Nash, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. This system is being developed in collaboration with the Department of Physics & Energy at University of Limerick, led by Dr Robert Lynch and Professor Noel Buckley of the Materials & Surface Science Institute. The team is focusing on electrochemical batteries for large scale energy storage and grid stabilisation. These technologies are becoming increasingly important as an increasing fraction of electricity is derived from renewable sources such as wind.
The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and Irish company Schwungrad Energie Limited is behind the initiative which will be based in Rhode, Co Offaly and approximately 30- 40 jobs will be created through the construction phase and a further 10-15 sustainable jobs will follow.
This project is co-funded through Enterprise Ireland by the Irish Government and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under Ireland’s European Structural and Investment Funds Programmes 2014-2020 and will include fundamental investigation of battery technology, flywheel-battery hybridisation and modelling of system services. It has received the support of Beacon Power, a US based company and global leader in the design, development and commercial deployment of proven flywheel energy storage technology at the utility scale.
Dr Robert Lynch, University of Limerick explained, “this project is of great significance for Ireland’s renewable energy targets and the reliability of our electricity supply. Currently, whenever a significant fraction of the grid’s power originates from wind, the system operator ensures the stability of the grid by keeping conventional power generators running on idle as a backup in case the wind should suddenly decrease. It follows that, due to the unpredictability of wind, greater penetration of the grid by wind energy indirectly results in carbon dioxide emissions. The synergy of flywheels and batteries will supply an alternative backup source of power and energy reducing the need for conventional plant to run on idle.”
The Irish transmission system operator, EirGrid, selected this project as a potential “Demonstration Project” under its Smart Grid Programme. This initiative promotes and supports the development, trialling and proofing of new concepts, solutions and technologies. It focuses on projects that demonstrate specific smart grid concepts in an Irish power system context, particularly system services. Schwungrad and EirGrid are investigating possible collaboration on how best to operate the plant to provide rapid frequency response and voltage control, which contribute to system stabilisation. Minister Nash said, “This announcement is great news for Offaly and the midlands region in general with up to 40 jobs being created in the construction phase of this hybrid energy plant, and up to 15 full-time jobs thereafter. It is also an exciting development in terms of clean energy technology.” Schwungrad received the first phase of up to €2.55 million European Commission Horizon 2020 funding to assist the project in December 2014, aimed at developing a hybrid system security and reliability technology, to overcome technical barriers and enable the establishment of low carbon and efficient energy systems. Additional investment has been received from Offaly based company, RR Projects and the European Commission, to facilitate development of Europe’s first hybrid flywheel-battery system service facility.
Frank Burke, Schwungrad Technical Director, with extensive industry experience and who was involved in the early development of system services, says: “This technology has the advantage of being a ‘100% clean’ power source as the hybrid technology has no direct fuel use or related emissions, and no water consumption. It simply absorbs power, stores it and is continuously ready to respond to any grid requirements to rapidly inject power. It is not a power plant in the conventional sense, but operates as a shock absorber and dynamic energy support system, absorbing and re-injecting small but highly flexible amounts of power to suit grid requirements. Together flywheel and battery technology will allow this support to be extended to durations of up to 20 minutes: i.e. sufficient time for conventional systems to come on-stream.