The levitating future of power management

The levitating future of power management 

When talking about energy storage, most people refer to batteries. Some might even mention hydrogen. But ever heard of flywheels? No? You probably will! 

An innovation from the Finnish company Teraloop, with a flywheel levitating in a magnetic field, might play a key role in the energy transition. With the help of PDSVISION and Ansys simulation software, the company has taken the next step towards a market that is more or less infinite.

The energy transition that takes place all over the world involves a multitude of renewable energy sources, mainly combined with battery storage solutions. This requires new ways of managing the grids, to avoid voltage drops and worn-out batteries.  

Now, innovators at the Finnish enterprise Teraloop have come up with a solution: a flywheel levitating in a magnetic field. By transforming electric energy to kinetic energy and back, in milliseconds if needed, Teraloop can stabilize the grid and extend battery lifetime at least by 20 percent. 

Today, everybody is focusing on energy storage. Few people understand that power management also is critical. Batteries ​are not suited to ​responding ​to​ high power demands in ​a ​short time. When you have applications that require different power cycles, and when you have more renewable energy sources supplying the grid, you need tools that are adapted to that. The Teraloop solution fits exactly to this need”

CEO at Teraloop

Antonio Capristo

Rotating at two times the speed of sound 

The Teraloop innovation is not the flywheel itself, it is the way it is storing energy. A rotating mass–a rotor–is levitating in a magnetic field, without being mounted on an axis. This way, the Teraloop flywheel ​achieves​ very high speed, two times the speed of sound, demanding almost no space. The Teraloop Power Loop, as it is called, can ​manage​ one megawatt ​of fast storage ​in just one square meter. 

The technique involves transforming electric energy to kinetic energy by letting the rotor reach its operation speed, with the help of an electric motor​ when excess energy is available​. When you need ​power​, the motor​ re-engages​, and the kinetic energy transforms back to electric​ power​. As the rotor is levitating, there is no friction and thus virtually no energy losses while the Power Loop is charged. 

“It was a challenge to keep the rotor levitating, it took seven years of research and development. Now, we finally have a product to deploy to the market”
Antonio Capristo explains. 

Focusing on three business areas 

The Teraloop flywheel represents a versatile solution with a wide array of applications. With an emphasis on three key business areas, Teraloop excels in the following domains:

1) Applications that improve the stability of the grid.  

This is a massive issue connected to the energy transition. As the amount of renewable energy sources increases, the grid becomes more unstable. Teraloop can stabilize peak fluctuations, participating to the fast response market, enhance connected batteries or allowing hydropower plant to generate extra revenues by enabling their participation in the ​primary ​frequency control market. 

2) Industrial applications.  

With the Teraloop solution, industries can cut their costly peak demands for electricity or protect the production lines. The flywheel can also be a complement to local power production from solar cells, wind power or generators, covering up at momentary peak demands in industry production, as other technologies may not respond as quickly as the flywheel.  

3) Electric vehicle charging.  

Where the distribution network connected to the EV-charger is lacking the capacity for super-fast charging, the flywheel is a rescuer. It charges from the low voltage distribution grid while no vehicle is connected, then providing fast charging when a vehicle is plugged in. This is interesting in city centers and rural areas, where upgrading the grid can be very expensive. 

A short-term storage solution  

It is important to bear in mind that Teraloop provides a short-term storage solution. The flywheel discharges in seconds or minutes, depending on the application. In many cases it is not an alternative to batteries and will not replace them. It makes them work better and extends their lifetime. 

“When you are stabilizing the grid with batteries, you connect and disconnect them all the time. The micro fluctuations are killing the battery. If we can replace only 10 percent of the battery assets with a small flywheel, it will extend the battery lifetime at least 20 percent. You get a perfect hybrid solution. It is​ ​safe, reliable, and totally green as it can be​ composed ​of recycled carbon fibers​​​​​,” Ant​onio Capristo explains. 

More efficient engineering 

Antonio Capristo describes the market as “infinite” and the Teraloop flywheel as the future. To meet the demands in this infinite future, Teraloop has increased the capacity of the flywheel, as it is imperative for the company to increase the product range. They needed to finalize the development of a rotor with a bigger mass. With the help of Ansys simulation software, they succeeded. Teraloop is now upgrading its Power Loop storage solution to a capacity of one megawatt, four times more than the first 250-kilowatt version*.

“The rotor is levitating inside a cylindrical protective housing. To gain more mass, we had two opportunities; either go higher or thicker in design. We wanted to elongate the rotor, i.e. a higher design. For this, we needed a software that considers all parameters and options involving all parts of the construction. We found that in Ansys’ simulation application. This design simulation has been ​incredibly​​ ​beneficial for us. It has saved us a lot of time, as we did not need to build new prototypes after every revision. We did all adjustments in the computer until we were satisfied,” Antonio Capristo states. 

He also emphasizes the aspect of safety when using simulation software.

We can simulate crashes and what will happen if the rotor should go out of the virtual axis. It gives us important feedback, as the safety aspect is very important.”

CEO at Teraloop

Antonio Capristo

Partnership fundamental to success 

The close partnership with PDSVISION has been a fundamental part of the development of Teraloop Power Loop. 

“Even if our engineers are experienced–we have used the Ansys software for several years now–we continuously need to learn new features. We always get quick and good service from the consultants at PDSVISION”, Antonio Capristo says.

All option opens 

Although Teraloop just has released the first Power Loop, the market has responded “incredibly well”, according to Antonio Capristo. 

“Batteries for energy storage are big investments, so I would say it is a no-brainer to set aside a small percentage of the assets for an appropriate power management tool. Our challenge is that flywheels are not well known. We have an important task in telling the world about this technique.” 

As for the future, all options are open for the innovative company in Helsinki.  

“We are an essential element in the big energy transition. A small, crucial element, that is true, but there is a huge market ahead of us,” concludes Antonio Capristo. 

*Teraloop Power Loop is currently available with a storage capacity of 250 kW. The new model with 1 MW storage capacity will be released in 2024. 

Learn more about Teraloop and the flywheel solution!  

About Teraloop

Energy storage to empower the world

Teraloop’s patented flywheel technology is touted as scalable, efficient, and sustainable. The energy storage system operated by Teraloop operates in synergy with renewable generation assets, effectively balancing the inherent fluctuations in supply and demand. Additionally, it offers support for battery storage, as flywheels are more adept at enduring frequent charging and discharging compared to conventional batteries. As a result, flywheels are deemed highly suitable for addressing challenging industrial applications that are typically problematic for alternative technologies.



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