A flywheel is a rotating mechanical device that is used to store rotational energy that can be called up instantaneously. At the most basic level, a flywheel contains a spinning mass in its center that is driven by a motor – and when energy is needed, the spinning force drives a device similar to a turbine to produce electricity, slowing the rate of rotation. A flywheel is recharged by using the motor to increase its rotational speed once again.
Flywheel technology has many beneficial properties that enable us to improve our currentelectric grid. A flywheel is able to capture energy from intermittent energy sources over time, and deliver a continuous supply of uninterrupted power to the grid. Flywheels also are able to respond to grid signals instantly, delivering frequency regulation and electricity quality improvements.
Flywheels are traditionally made of steel and rotate on conventional bearings; these are generally limited to a revolution rate of a few thousand RPM. Modern flywheels are made of carbon fiber materials, stored in vacuums to reduce drag, and employ magnetic bearings, enabling them to revolve at speeds up to 60,000 RPM.