A new clean tech Kickstarter campaign is for at technology that tackles one of the biggest issues with clean energy production: energy storage. The wind isn't always blowing and the sun isn't always shining, so to bridge the gap, reliable, efficient energy storage solutions are vital to our transition to clean energy.
We've talked about energy storage ideas many times on TreeHugger, including large grid-scale batteries, pumped hydro and flywheels. The Velkess flywheel aims to improve upon the last of those by making them a less expensive and more accessible form of energy storage for homes with solar panels as well as larger clean energy installations.
The creators of the Velkess flywheel explain the differences between their new technology and traditional flywheel technology:
Traditional flywheels are designed and built like the turbines of high performance jet engines. They use super rigid materials and super high precision fabrication to very tightly control the powerful natural dynamics that are characteristic of all high energy spinning rotors. These materials, precision, and control techniques are all very expensive, so you simply can't use the traditional rigid approach to make a low cost system.
Velkess's flywheel is flexible and works very much like a cowboy's lasso. Our flexible system embraces the natural dynamics of the rotor, redirecting any stray energies into stabilizing counter forces. By working cooperatively with these natural rotor dynamics we gain excellent control of the rotor system without having to crush out its irregularities. Because of this we can use much less expensive materials and don't need nearly as much precision as rigid designs.
The flywheel has many applications from replacing batteries for solar-equipped homes and allowing the home to be fully off the grid to providing a reliable and clean energy storage solution for rural and developing areas where solar, wind energy or erratic energy from the grid have to be supplemented by fuel-burning generators.
The team has already built a working prototype capable of making or absorbing 2kW and storing 1/2 kWh of energy. The Kickstarter campaign is to raise funds to scale up the technology by 30 times, producing a larger flywheel capable of storing 15kWh.
"That means replacing the 25lb flywheel rotor seen in the video with a 750lb version. We've already built and fully tested flywheels that are physically larger and nearly as heavy, so we are very confident we can do this. We also have access to all the fiber materials we need to construct such a flywheel.
Our challenge is with the magnetic assembly. The magnets to float 25lbs are easy to get on the internet and easy to work with by hand. Magnets strong enough to float 750lbs, are a different story. They need to be custom made and are too powerful to safely work by hand."
The campaign's goal is to reach $54,000 by April 5 and as of today they're about $12,000 in toward that goal.
You can watch the videos below to learn more about the technology.