Energy Tech Talk
Let's Talk Energy with... Cam Carver, Temporal Power
Wind, solar and other renewable forms of energy can be hard to integrate into the electrical grid because they don’t generate power in a constant, predictable way. Cam Carver, CEO of Temporal Power, explains how his company’s energy storage technology is addressing this challenge—and paving the way for a smarter, greener grid.
One of the tricky things about the electrical grid is that it has to be balanced at all times—that is, the amount of power being generated has to stay equal to the amount of power being consumed.
When you introduce renewable energy sources like wind and solar to the mix, maintaining the grid’s balance becomes even more challenging. Unlike traditional generation sources, renewables tend to have fluctuating, unpredictable power outputs. As we transition to a grid powered increasingly by renewable energy, levelling out the power supply means grid operators will need to be able to inject power into or absorb power out of the grid on a minute-by-minute and even second-by-second basis. At Temporal Power, we call this “energy on time”.
One of the key requirements for energy on time is an efficient way of storing energy so it can be accessed when it’s needed most—and that’s exactly what our unique flywheel technology provides.
How it works
A flywheel is essentially a mechanical battery that charges by spinning a heavy cylindrical mass. The kinetic energy generated and stored in the rotating flywheel can then be discharged later by having the flywheel drive a generator to produce electricity.
It’s timeless technology, actually. Flywheels have been around for hundreds of years. Leonardo da Vinci worked on flywheels! But until now they’ve only been used for temporary backup power, because if they were kept in ‘storage mode’ for too long, all the energy would drain out.
We’ve been able to advance this old idea to solve modern challenges, creating what is essentially one of the highest performance batteries in the world. Our flywheels hold fifty times the energy of most available commercial systems. They’re relatively compact, measuring just over one metre in height. They’re customizable from 10 kW to 500 kW so they can serve a variety of power-generating applications—and they can be configured in arrays for even more flexible power capacity.
An efficient and sustainable solution
Most commercial flywheels deplete in a few hours due to what’s known as ‘standby loss’. We’ve built ours so that it loses only five percent of its stored energy over a 10-hour period. (How we do that is our special secret.)
Unlike smartphone batteries that wear out after charging too many times, our system isn’t affected by the number of charge cycles. As well, the design of our flywheel makes it essentially maintenance-free, providing up to 20 years of life in even the most demanding grid conditions.
We’ve also taken an environmentally friendly approach to building our flywheels, using recycled car parts to make the base and recyclable, non-toxic components for the rest. Of course, the larger-scale environmental benefits are clear. By storing and discharging energy more efficiently, we’re making it possible to use greater amounts of renewables in the grid than ever before—ultimately reducing our dependence on emission-generating fossil fuels.
Despite the fact that flywheel technology has been around for a long time, they’re only now starting to be used in the electrical grid. We’ve been able to build a larger flywheel than anybody else—and do so in a very cost-effective way—which will allow us to deliver commercial systems around the world very soon. And as more regions around the world take on the challenge of integrating renewable energy sources into their grids, the global need for this kind of technology has never been greater.
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