Flywheel Energy Storage Systems ( .....verses latest battery systems?) Storing electrical energy has always been a real problem,….how to do any large quantity, in a compact manner, and how to be able to extract (and charge) it quickly. It’s a problem that begs for solutions, and some of those solutions will take us forward into a new energy future for the world….storing energy beyond the ‘chemistries’ of burning fuels and electrical batteries. Years ago I became aware of some research work John Hopkins Applied Physics Labs was doing on flywheel energy storage systems. This was really in its infancy when the spinning flywheels were big weighty chunks of metallic material, and the vacuum chamber problem was important primarily to delay frictional decay of the spinning wheel rather than its more important roll now. My interest in boats was gaining momentum at this same time, so naturally I though of replacing the aux generator set and battery bank onboard many cruising vessels with a hi-tech flywheel energy storage device. I think it was somewhere around 1971-72 I made such a dwg for a 50’ catamaran that utilized a single diesel engine mounted in one hull that hydraulically powered two retractable prop drive units in each hull, and spun up a sizable flywheel energy storage unit in the opposite hull. Thus only one primary diesel engine was required for the whole vessel. Electrical requirements for the vessel, including the starting of the main engine were all handled by the energy stored in the flywheel device. Of course there would be at least one emergency battery for starting purposes, just as there are backups in ordinary vessels. Alas, through many years of attempts to bring this flywheel technology to fruition, there continued to be two primary stumbling blocks standing in the way of real time deployment of this relatively simple idea of storing energy in a spinning disc: 1) Our past is littered with energy devices that never made it mainstream as their full potentials were not pursued due to the significant cost involved when compared to the existing cheap fuel/oil energies….no need to be so energy/cost concerned, so why bother spending research/development monies here. 2) Maintaining a vacuum chamber for the spinning wheel to be housed in, combined with proper bearings for its support, just never really got solved, particularly as the wheels went from metal chunks at relatively slow speeds to carbon fiber wheels spinning upwards of 60,000 rpm, and there needing to be some mechanical connection/communication to the outside of the chamber. Now there comes a company (combination of companies I would say) that believes they have solved these major problems that have hampered deployment of flywheel energy storage devices. They believe they have solved the vacuum chamber problem by providing a hermetically sealed chamber for the flywheel itself, and a communication with the outside world via an innovated magnetic gearing and coupling mechanism in the form of continuously variable transmission CVT. This CVT appears to have evolved from the Formula One (F1) motor racing, and their latest desires to recover their significant ‘braking energies’ and use them for acceleration once again. There are claims of 99% efficiencies with this coupling. This promises to put flywheel energy storage devices back into contention with the most promising and greater notoriety new battery storage developments. Flywheel energy storage possibilities are BACK into the picture ! HURRAY !! I say this with a mighty ‘Hurray’ as I once did when Chrysler first announced its development program to put a flywheel powered race car into the Le Mans competition. I’m excited once again. So here are a few reference articles to visit for more details: 1) Wheels: The Science of Spin,… Flywheels This was my source of news of this latest development in this technology. It’s called “DESIGN fax”, and is available for subscription. 2) Making a Case for Flywheel Energy Storage Uses include ‘frequency regulation’ in our electrical power grid, and the Navy’s use to launch aircraft on a next generation carriers. 3) Torotrak and Xtrac Toroidal Variable Drive CVT Compact continuously variable transmissions for use in the new kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS) proposed for Formula One motor racing. ** Note: Both the flywheel energy storage technology, AND the variable transmission technologies could find some applications onboard our vessels.