Rubin York (left), Project Engineer, Emerging Technologies, helps guide a flywheel into a 7-foot-deep cylinder.

OUC – The Reliable One has expanded its research of renewable-energy solutions to include two flywheel energy storage devices. Installed on April 11, 2022, the flywheels are the latest additions to OUC’s Nanogrid research project at the Gardenia Innovation & Operations Center.

Set 7 feet underground in corrugated steel cylinders, the flywheels will be connected to the research site’s 64-kilowatt (kW) solar array floating on a pond that’s only 70 feet away. OUC’s Emerging Technologies team will begin testing the 16-kW flywheels sometime in May.

OUC purchased the flywheels from California-based Amber Kinetics.

Once operational, each flywheel will store on a rotating wheel the kinetic energy created by the floating solar array. That energy could be dispatched to the grid when solar production falls, such as on cloudy days. Flywheels could be used someday as backup energy units supporting solar farms and micro-grids, or small-scale power stations connected to the grid.

“The flywheels are exciting additions to our research of sustainable energy solutions,” said Rubin York, Project Engineer on the Emerging Technologies team. “They have a 20-year lifespan without practically any degradation in storage capacity, which is an advantage over battery storage. They’re also very reliable, and they can quickly dispatch stored energy to the grid.”

OUC’s Nanogrid is a test site of renewable energy technologies that could be deployed at micro-grids. Besides solar and the flywheel systems, the Nanogrid includes flow-battery storage, electric vehicle  charging stations, including one with vehicle-to-grid capability, and custom algorithms developed in partnership with the University of Central Florida’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.

OUC launched the Nanogrid project in 2020 to support its goal of reaching net zero CO2 emissions by 2050, with interim emissions reductions of 50% by 2030 and 75% by 2040 from 2005 levels.