Europe’s largest flywheel battery system – and the first in the UK – is to be installed at the University of Sheffield’s energy storage facility as part of a €4 million project with industrial partners to meet the technical requirements of EU electricity grids.

Engineers from the University of Sheffield’s Energy 2050 Institute and industry partners, Schwungrad Energie, Adaptive Balancing Power and Freqcon, will connect the flywheel system to the UK and Irish grids to help develop an energy storage solution for EU grids following a successful demonstration project, in collaboration with EirGrid, at Schwungrad Energies’ hybrid flywheel-battery facility in Ireland.

The system will then be installed at the University of Sheffield’s 2MW battery facility at Willenhall near Wolverhampton. The grid-connected research facility is one of the largest and fastest battery storage systems in the UK.

Flywheels work by accelerating a rotor to high speeds using electrical energy, effectively storing the energy within the system as rotational energy, to be converted back to electricity when required. Flywheels do not degrade over time compared to batteries so combining the two enables the storage system to operate more efficiently and reduce costs over the system’s lifetime.

Fast acting frequency response services, such as those provided by this hybrid solution, are a key enabler to the realisation of a high penetration of renewables. Currently capable of a peak power of 500kW and able to store 10kWh of energy, the integrated flywheel and battery system can respond rapidly to changes in frequency on the electricity grid. At Willenhall, the flywheels will be upgraded to provide 1MW of peak power and 20kWh of energy storage and used as a hybrid energy storage system with the batteries to provide frequency response services.

Part-funded by the EU’s Horizon2020 scheme, the flywheel battery hybrid energy storage system being developed is aimed at stabilising pressure on the existing grid infrastructure in Europe. The adaptive flywheel technology used in this project has been developed by German company, Adaptive Balancing Power, with scalable multi-source power converters to connect it to the grid designed and built by Freqcon GmbH.

Dr Dan Gladwin, from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Sheffield, said: “The UK national grid is becoming increasingly volatile due to the rising share of intermittent renewable energy sources. Battery and flywheel technologies can offer a rapid response, and can export and import energy enabling this technology to respond to periods of both under and over frequency.”

A recent report by the National Infrastructure Commission has suggested that energy storage could contribute to innovations that could save consumers £8 billion a year by 2030 as well as securing the UK’s energy supply for generations. Energy storage is a key priority for the UK government, with a policy by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) expected later this year.