Giant flywheel project in Scotland could prevent UK power outages

Posted: July 9, 2020 by oldbrew in Emissions, Energy, innovation
Tags: , , ,

Windy Standard wind farm, Scotland [credit:]

H/T Chaeremon

We’re supposed to believe that spending £25 million is going to somehow make UK power supplies cheaper. No explanation of where the energy for the flywheel is going to come from. Maybe more trees will have to be burnt, as wind can’t be relied on? Don’t even think about a catastrophic failure of the flywheel itself.

A giant flywheel in the north-east of Scotland could soon help prevent power outages across Britain by mimicking the effect of a power plant but without using fossil fuels, reports FR24News.

The pioneering project near Keith in Moray, which would cost around £25 million, will not produce electricity or produce carbon emissions – but it could help keep the lights on by stabilizing the grid’s electrical frequency.

Norwegian energy company Statkraft hopes that starting next winter, the new flywheel, designed by a division of General Electric, will be able to mimic the rotating turbines of a traditional power plant, which have helped balance the network frequency at around 50 hertz for decades.

Currently, the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) is forced to close wind farms and operate gas-fired power plants even if there is more than enough renewable energy to meet British electricity demand, in order to keep the network frequency stable.

By simulating the mass of rotating metal in a power plant turbine without producing emissions, Statkraft should be able to help ESO depend less on fossil fuels and make more use of renewable energy.

It is the first time that a project of this type will be used anywhere in the world and ESO thinks that it could be a “huge step forward” in the management of a zero carbon electricity network.

Full report here.

  1. oldbrew says:

    Video: ‘’

  2. cognog2 says:

    I wonder how many GiggleWattHrs you get for £25 million of other peoples money. A comparison with the Dinorwic pumped storage facility would have been helpful. This stores 9.1 GWattHrs and cost £425 million in 1974. (times 10 these days?)

  3. JB says:

    The extractable power in a flywheel is far less than the total energy stored. And then it must be restored just like a battery to do it again.Functionally and mechanically, flywheel generators are little different than the common electrical generator, so why go to the trouble to compensate for those generators that can’t perform? This is just trading a mediocre gain in efficiency for large increases in cost to compensate for Nature’s variability.

  4. Stuart Brown says:

    Maybe someone can explain something to this armchair engineer. It seems to me there are two possibilities – this could be a flywheel rotating at massive speed to store energy over a medium timescale to cover peaks. That would connect to the grid in the same way as a battery, through a bunch of electronics, and therefore offer nothing in the way of frequency stability. I don’t think that’s new?

    Or it could be a synchronous condenser, basically a motor/generator synchronised to the grid but with nothing driving it, just adding inertia to keep the frequency stable. That’s nothing new either.

    Or am I missing something? Of course, the purpose of such a thing, either way, is just to keep things stable until the gas powered plant can kick in!

  5. oldbrew says:

    Note — ‘The pioneering project near Keith in Moray, which would cost around £25 million, will not produce electricity‘.

  6. Clive Best says:

    JET in Culham is powered up by 2 flywheels. Originally it took power direct from Didcot’s Coal Fired power station. They worked perfectly for over 35 years.

    JET’s power requirements during the plasma pulse are around 500 MW[41] with peak in excess of 1000 MW.[42] Because power draw from the main grid is limited to 575 MW, two large flywheel generators were constructed to provide this necessary power.[42] Each 775-ton flywheel can spin up to 225 rpm and store 3.75 GJ.[43] Each flywheel uses 8.8 MW to spin up and can generate 400 MW (briefly).[42]

  7. oldbrew says:

    Again – the proposed flywheel is NOT for power generation.

  8. Gamecock says:

    ‘It is the first time that a project of this type will be used anywhere in the world’

    We ran our factory machines off MG sets 50 years ago.

  9. oldmanK says:

    Quote “– after the grid frequency fell to 48.88 Hz.” That is approaching the red-zone for turbine blading. To use the kinetic energy of the fly-wheel, then it is not synchronised. So — what’s the trick? (electronic power conversion?).

  10. ivan says:

    Yet another pie in the sky idea to extract money from taxpayers.

    I assume that Norwegian energy company Statkraft will not be using any of their money in this scam. Maybe if they put their £25 million plus on the table and used that first… but then they know they would lose it and the shareholders would be very upset.

    As others have said how can it synchronise anything if it doesn’t produce electricity – maybe they are using pixie dust and unicorn farts to do the job.

    Who signs off on these stupid projects? Maybe if those people were made personally liable for all money lost by such projects they might take a closer look at what is going on.

  11. Stuart Brown says:

    OB – “the proposed flywheel is NOT for power generation.”
    Ivan – “how can it synchronise anything if it doesn’t produce electricity”

    No-one in the comments said it produces electricity long term, but it can help with the frequency stability if it is a ruddy great piece of something spinning at a constant rate. If the frequency drops, then it WILL produce electricity for a very short time. If it is a synchronous condenser.

    Or it’s a battery, storing energy producing during peak wind to deliver later during peak demand. If it is a battery, then it STILL produces electricity while it is discharging, but not while it is charging up. However, if it is not synchronised to the grid, and it can’t be if the flywheel is spinning faster than 3000rpm, then it cannot help with synchronisation.

    None of this is anything new. But I’m not an expert – someone tell me I’m wrong and I’ll humbly listen.

  12. oldbrew says:

    Still ‘jerking around with renewables’ – as Bill Gates once put it – here, but there’s a large nuclear aspect too.

    Clean energy hub proposes nuclear development for Moorside
    1 July 2020

    The Moorside Clean Energy Hub group said the proposals include a 3200MWe EPR nuclear plant, similar to Hinkley Point C EDF is building with China’s CGN. The group is also considering other nuclear technology such as small modular reactors (SMRs), and advanced modular reactors (AMRs), which could be linked with renewables, storage and hydrogen production to create an integrated clean energy hub in the north west region.

  13. BoyfromTottenham says:

    As I understand it, practical experience (e.g. Germany) has now shown that national-scale power grids start to become seriously unstable when asynchronous renewables (currently a tautology) provide more than about 20% of the generation in them. In the worst case a grid cannot recover from ‘black’ if it doesn’t have a sufficient amount of synchronous (i.e. traditional rotating generator-based) power as the frequency and phase reference for subsequent sources. A fully renewable grid is a fantasy, because it cannot even be powered up without a sufficiently large synchronous source to allow each additional renewable generator to ‘sync’ itself before it can be safely put online. Maybe this device is a way to augment the existing synchronous generator capacity to mitigate the above problem. Otherwise it doesn’t seem to have any useful function. IMO an expensive answer to an unnecessary problem.

  14. Graeme No.3 says:

    The linked article hasn’t got a lot of details but it looks like a synchronous condensor, such as the 4 being installed in South Australia (the blackout State). The cost here is quoted at £22 million each, almost the same as in Scotland.
    They will NOT start up the grid if it goes down, merely avoid some voltage and frequency fluctuations that result in renewables shutting down. **
    Running this mass of machinery continuously must result in energy loss from friction and drag from air movement. An electrical engineer advised me that they can consume up to 30% of their nominal capacity per annum.

    **This was one of the causes of the State-wide blackout in 2016. Frequency fluctuations and unstable voltage caused many wind turbines to shut down, making the situation worse. Since then the grid controller has insisted on a minimum amount of reliable generation running, even if it means directing wind turbines to be shut down.
    Ironically the increase in solar PV is squeezing the market for the wind farms, and they are losing about 10% of possible generation (and they don’t get paid for it). The solution is SIMPLE! SPEND MORE money so they can export the unwanted amounts to another State.

  15. I have a photo dated ca 1902 of a generator driven by a large flywheel which in turn is driven by a steam engine supplied by a spreader stoker coal fired boiler at a cement works. The generator produced power at 550V for plant use. Later steam turbines were added. The power station supplied the town with transformers converting to 240V for domestic use but 550V was retained for the plant until the station closed in 1993.