The biggest hurdle for renewable energy today is storage. How to store the excess unconsumed energy produced for use during intermittent disruptions or at night in the case of solar energy.

This is not only an issue for the renewable energy industry — the entire energy sector faces the same problem. The use of coal to produce energy, does so at a relatively fixed rate over time even though demand for electricity can fluctuate throughout the day. There is the need to develop effective energy storage technology capable of storing electrical energy so it can be available to meet peak demand periods.

This not only helps reduce the cost utilities charge customers at peak usage times of the day; but it will help make renewable energy, whose power output cannot be controlled by grid operators, smooth and dispatchable. This will definitely solve the long-running issue of how to effectively balance the mix between generation and load.

“Better ways of storing energy are needed if electricity systems are to become cleaner and more efficient
— The Economist

Although there are many conventional energy storage applications worldwide, flywheel technologies are making significant headway.

If history has taught us one thing about energy storage, it is that spinning wheels have been used to store energy for centuries. You may be aware or remember that this is the same working principle used in potter’s wheels where energy in the disk helps maintain a consistent velocity.

Flywheel technology has also been a major component of steam engines converting energy from pistons into consistent rotational motion. I can go on and on but only recently have large cylindrical flywheels been used to quickly store and release electric power, as a way to keep complex power grids in balance.

At the fore front of using the flywheel technology for energy storage, is Temporal Power, a Canadian company of humble beginnings which creates high performance energy storage systems for grid stabilization and energy balancing usage. Temporal Power works closely with Effective Technical Solutions Group Inc. (ETSG); a leading solutions based firm in new power delivery technologies to help drive much of the interest and is the largest proponent of the use of this technology in both renewables and nontraditional power delivery markets.

Visiting Temporal Power:

Temporal Power is located in Mississauga about 28 KM Southeast of Toronto in the province of Ontario, Canada. The company designs, manufactures and services the world’s leading flywheel energy storage technology. Using an all steel flywheel in combination with proprietary bearing technology, the company offers a high-performance energy storage solution that holds the highest amount of energy of any flywheel in the world, offers no degradation due to cycle life, and is a clean technology made of fully recyclable materials.

I recently visited the company’s facility in Mississauga. Upon entering the facility, I was received by Mr. Jeffrey Veltri — the inventor of Temporal Power’s flywheel system — who is also the President and CTO. He was accompanied by Mr. Andy Garbas the Founder of Effective Technical Solutions Group (ETSG) which explores applications involving the use of this incredible energy storage system to revolutionize the power delivery market.

After introductions we jumped right into the tour of the facility. I couldn’t help but notice a heightened sense of safety measures implemented throughout the “visitors tour” of the office space as well as the mechanical and electrical spaces. This made me feel very safe and comfortable even though surrounded by heavy machinery and equipment.

The Technology

I consider Jeff as the “Steve Jobs” of the energy storage industry. By re-inventing the flywheel technology for usage in energy storage, makes it easy to integrate variable power generated from renewable sources like solar into the grid. He completely removed chemistry from the equation, removing extremely dangerous and expensive acids or chemicals to introducing a simple yet tactical technology that has been proven to work throughout history.

flywheel-cross-sectionA cross section schematic of the Temporal Power flywheel showing different parts and components.

His patented design of the flywheel gives these 4,000-kilogram solid-steel structures the ability to hold massive amounts of energy many hundred times greater than conventional (smaller) flywheels with a 20-year life cycle, 100% recyclable and with ease of maintenance.

“I’m a very practical-hands-on engineer,” said Jeff as he showed me the prototypes of the flywheels he made about 6 years ago. “I wanted to store energy when it is inexpensive and then use it again when it is expensive. So I started working on this idea from my garage.”

“Get it? Garage + revolutionary idea? That makes me think of Steve Jobs!
— Derick Ajumni, Founder and Editorial Manager at PVBuzz

Jeff Veltri, officeMr. Jeffrey Veltri, President and CTO of Temporal Power Ltd. Image Credit: Derick Ajumni of PVBuzz

Why the flywheel technology?

“Well, I looked at different storage technologies, batteries, capacitors, and flywheels. But I gravitated towards flywheels because unlike batteries, flywheels can be charged and discharged thousands of times without any detriment to the device. Whereas with batteries, after several thousands of full charge/discharge cycles — you will have to replace the cells,” Jeff explains.

Flywheel-LowerTwo Temporal Power engineers lower Flywheel into the concrete vault. Image Credit: Temporal Power

“Another point to note is that in a battery system you are limited to about 30% usage of a certain rated capacity because fully charging and discharging them isn’t recommended. So you may end up buying a lot more batteries than you actually need,” said Andy Garbas. “In the flywheel system, you can essentially charge and discharge an unlimited number of times due to its design taking advantage of its full energy capacity (100%),” continued Andy.

In Temporal Power’s Flywheel design, an electric machine which can operate as an induction motor or generator is directly coupled to a solid steel cylinder that runs inside a vacuum contaminant with upper and lower mechanical bearings that position the flywheel. Jeff notes that the unique thing about their technology is the use of a permanent fixed magnet (similar to a fridge magnet) to levitate all of the rotor mass off the bearings.

Jeff Veltri prototype flywheelJeff points at a unique feature on Temporal Power’s prototype which is a visible gap between the magnetic lift system and the rotor. Image Credit: Derick Ajumni of PVBuzz.

This magnet material is strong, can be bent, die cut and assembled in different shapes and sizes. The magnet forms magnetic flux or magnetic flow lines that run back into the steel lifting all of the rotor weight without touching it. Evidenced by a visible gap between the magnetic lift system and the rotor (above image).

“This creates a permanent magnetic life system that requires zero electrical energy. Unlike most flywheels used today that require some sort of electrical lift system, ours doesn’t!
— Mr. Jeffrey Veltri, President, and CTO of Temporal Power Ltd., as well as the inventor of Temporal Power’s proprietary flywheel system.

How does this thing work?

Andy Garbas explained that the flywheel works by charge and discharge. Charging the machine involves taking electrical energy off the grid and running it through a variable frequency drive such as an inverter that basically changes the frequency from 0 to hundreds of Hertz. The motor converts electric power to the mechanical momentum of the rotor, and the rotor speeds up. At some point in the future when a command comes to discharge the machine, the motor switches to become a generator, as the slowing rotor transfers its energy back into electricity.

Jeff Veltri steel rotorJeff Veltri examines one of the many Flywheel steel motors on the facility floor. Image Credit: Derick Ajumni of PVBuzz.

Andy added that the concept is simple; by accelerating the machine you charge it, and by decelerating the machine you discharge it.

“The beauty with flywheels is that this can be done in milliseconds. So one can go from full output power to full input power in about 50 to 100 milliseconds all day long, 24/7, 365 days a year without any detriment to the machine,” said Andy.

Andy also continued to explain that only Temporal Power makes the largest commercially available flywheels in the world rated at 50kWh (equal to 3 Chevy volts) which can push and pull power up to 500kW for 6 minutes. To put it in perspective, most flywheels are rated at about 1kWh. Comparatively, at 1KWH most others can only provide 5-15 seconds of stored energy compared to Temporal’s Minutes.

“What I succeeded in doing is design a flywheel that stores energy for hours at a time; something no one else has ever done before,” said Jeff.

Temporal Power’s flywheels have been installed and are actively being used in Ontario, Canada. One of such an installation is at NRStor’s facility under contract with the IESO for frequency stability, and there are also other plans in the works for a wind energy facility in Tillsonburg for Hydro One.

“The idea and initial intent for creating this technology is for grid stability,” said Andy. “This solves the problem of the distributed generation where you have different green energy generation mechanisms lending to the grid that is not as constant as traditional mechanisms of energy generation.

Jeff Veltri and Andy GarbasMr. Jeffrey Veltri and Mr. Andy Garbas review strategic initiatives. Image Credit: Derick Ajumni of PVBuzz.

An awesome thing to note about effective storage technology is the frequency regulation it can provide to help maintain the balance between the network’s load and power generated, supplying reliable power for high tech industrial facilities. That said, it becomes easy to understand why a good and effective energy storage technology will play a substantial role in transforming the electric power industry.

“There is a lot of talk about energy storage, storing it now to use later, but where energy storage has the most value in our eyes is in high-speed precision voltage and frequency regulation,” Veltri says. “This saves money, allows green energy to be integrated into the grid and can save island nations enormously in diesel fuel costs. We hope to have our technology used on islands in the near future.
— Mr. Jeffrey Veltri, President and CTO of Temporal Power talking to Design-Engineering.

It is important to understand how the energy storage industry will grow and change over the next few years. This will help renewable energy industries understand how and when storage will contribute to the renewables sector. Navigant Research stated in its Energy Storage Tracker 3Q14 that this is a critical time for the advanced energy storage industry, that in order for the industry to continue to scale, more systems integrators are needed.

“The energy storage market is real, rapidly expanding, and of critical importance to utilities and players across the renewable energy industry.
— Scott Clavenna, CEO and Co-Founder of GreenTechMedia

This flywheel technology aims to end the renewable energy/utility gridlock. The energy storage machine will make variable generation more predictable for smooth power grid integration — helping electric system operators efficiently balance energy to control frequency.

Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has over a decade of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

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  1. Awesome technology, thanks for sharing! I am hoping you could answer a few questions for me. I am curious to know if this is R&D work or a market-ready product….
    Is the flywheel cost effective? Meaning, the upfront costs of this equipment combined with the upfront costs of renewable infrastructure (solar, wind or other) still results in cost savings over, say 10 yrs, as compared to simply running a coal plant?
    Also, is this technology scalable? Meaning, can it be deployed practically to boost the efficiency of an entire region?

    1. @Tony: Your questions made me go back to my notes from the interview. This is a market ready product. It has been installed, tested and is operational at a facility in Ontario, Canada. Is it cost effective — YES. When you factor in the costs, risks and losses associated with variable generation vs electric grid parity you realize how effective and cool this technology is. The technology is very scalable — works best for large scale power generation and industrial applications where huge amounts of power is pulled and pushed into the grid. Andy mentioned that this can cover the requirements of entire islands in the Caribbean. I can link you up with Mr. Andy Garbas for actual specifics if interested. — Derick Ajumni

    2. “Yes the product is market ready in two size formats 500 KW & 250 KW modules, with two existing installations 4MW ± & 10 MW± (one operating & one being commissioned- IESO & Hydro One) we are developing a number of projects at the moment and working closely with the grid regulator to look at unique applications for potential government subsidies with projects that could benefit from storage. Throughout North America grid regulators are working with developers & government agencies to determine methods to stimulate development and deployment. If the project is in North America we would be glad to look at it more closely with the parties involved. If it is outside North America we would engage our worldwide partners. We are looking at projects on at least three continents at the moment.

      Cost is comparable to other energy technologies but the Temporal FES has far greater performance and storage capacity. The payback is rather project dependent (wind, solar or grid regulation) the each case would have to be reviewed on a per project basis. It would be very reasonable to suggest that less than a 10 year payback is achievable, in fact that would be extremely conservative. I would “guesstimate” closer to 5-8 year payback periods considering some new design developments and the latest approach of providing a system that does not require a facility, and is tamperproof for outdoor installations.

      Fully scalable, we are involved with projects designs up to 250MW at the moment, however there is literally no limitation, other than cost regarding size of system. At the moment we are working with large groups on potential deployment at the regional level, and yes we could easily improve a large region or utilities supply, however more analysis of cost and contract requirements is needed. Presently the model is to look at “mileage” (power in & power out) rather than just a contract payment for size or capacity. But the benefits could provide sizeable rewards as there is some major cost offsetting potential available . With Frequency regulation for instance, the system can perform far faster than present regulation commodities, which means less would be needed to be procured. In fact at the super high response times, the regulators are just now beginning to understand the potential benefits.
      — Andy Garbas (Founder of Effective Technical Solutions Group (ETSG) which explores applications involving the use of this incredible energy storage system to revolutionize the power delivery market).

  2. I see that this product is scalable upwards, but what about the other direction? Could it be used in a car, for example? A motorcycle? Several smaller versions in the trunk or under the seat perhaps?

    1. “The Temporal FES was designed for large scale power systems not smaller applications so although there are firms and companies developing flywheels for those other applications (including F1) the Temporal flywheel is solely for commercial, industrial and utility grade systems.
      — Andy Garbas (Founder of Effective Technical Solutions Group (ETSG) which explores applications involving the use of this incredible energy storage system to revolutionize the power delivery market).

  3. What is the cooling system labeled in the diagram? Purpose?

    1. The cooling system would be to keep the motor/generator set cool. The whole system runs in a vacuum chamber so there is no airflow to cool the motor, and an active cooling system is necessary instead. This is kind of swings and roundabouts – keeping the whole system in a vacuum simplifies vacuum chamber design (no rotating vacuum joints) and eliminates windage losses in the motor, but then an active cooling system is needed to remove the heat from copper losses. The cooling system is a system overhead or efficiency loss.

      Derek, any word on the overall efficiency?

    2. “The cooling system is in place to handle the small amount of losses and thermal management. The system design inherently included a robust thermal managements system, which is why the unit has a 100% duty cycle. In fact one of the key and paramount differences between the Temporal Flywheel and others is its ability to be utilized at very high duty cycles, charging and discharging hundreds or more times a day, where most systems are designed for very limited number of cycles, thus the cooling is what makes the Temporal Flywheel different. In fact there are many aspects of the cooling system which are patented and unique only to the Temporal system. It was initially a key challenge (due to vacuum and rotational speeds) but the units have an incredibly robust ability to operate at full input/output.
      – Andy Garbas (Founder of Effective Technical Solutions Group (ETSG) which explores applications involving the use of this incredible energy storage system to revolutionize the power delivery market).

      1. “What I succeeded in doing is design a flywheel that stores energy for hours at a time; something no one else has ever done before,” Sounds very promising. Can you talk about the energy storage efficiency of the Temporal system? Wikipedia says that “Flywheel energy storage systems using mechanical bearings can lose 20% to 50% of their energy in two hours”.

  4. Flywheels have been discussed many time over the years; E.G.; an article in Scientific American about a decades ago discussing a flywheel storage system for electric vehicles. Hats off to Andy for actually doing the hard yards to develop this to a usable product.

    1. @Peter: Please see Andy’s reply below.

  5. Thanks Peter…

    Actually the hard work and development was done by the inventor, an incredibly smart man named Jeff Veltri of Temporal. I simply have the experience in commercial /industrial and utility markets to understand integration and applications that Temporal’s design can help with.

    I agree that Flywheels have been around for super long times going back to the day of DaVinci, but the system that has been developed by Temporal is one of a kind… I am pleased that there is excitement and even more pleased that society and our industry is adopting new approaches to old problems and are doing so with vigor and technical savvy. It is great to get feedback and frankly we were very pleased that Derick and PVBuzz showed interest as they did. Clearly Derick too is driven by passion for our industry.

  6. Love this article. This is the future of energy storage.

    1. @Christopher: Thanks for the positive feedback.

  7. ETSG & Temporal are pleased that so many of you on PVBuzz are excited and feel as Derick & I do that storage like that which Temporal offers is CRITICAL to the renewable markets, as it allows grids and large utilities to accommodate more “green” energy. No other technology can perform the task that temporal’s flywheel does and this is good for all who are involved in solar and wind along with other renewable markets like compressed air.

    If any of you have further comments or questions please do not hesitate to reach out I would be pleased to answer for you.

    Andy Garbas
    ETSG (Effective Technical Solutions Group Inc.)

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