A UNIQUE system that evens out energy consumption by storing surplus energy in underground spinning flywheels is being installed at The Armidale School in what is a national first.
The project, expected to pay for itself with savings within five years, is a joint venture of the School and partners Key Energy and is the first energy storage system that inter-connects the electricity grid, solar batteries and long duration flywheels (run time of more than four hours).
TAS Business Manager Pat Bradley said four flywheels have been installed, each weighing about five tonnes and secured in vacuum-sealed steel containers which are housed in underground capsules.
"The project is not just about generating more energy but storing it more efficiently and then distributing it more evenly, based on five years of usage data," Mr Bradley said.
"As a boarding school with energy needs that vary around the clock, the system's prime function is to remove the regular spikes in our grid electricity consumption, which cost us very expensive network capacity penalties each month."
Each flywheel spins at a maximum of 9,000rpm, storing 32 kilowatt-hours of energy in kinetic form that can be released as required. Unlike batteries, the capacity of the flywheels is not degraded by use.
The system will complement a lithium-cobalt-manganese battery unit to provide a total site storage of just over 400-kilowatt hours.
As part of the project, additional solar panels have been placed on the roof of the Hoskins Creative Arts Centre, boosting the School's solar generation capacity to 145kW.
As well as being an additional form of storage, Mr Bradley said the robustness of the flywheels means they can handle a rapid change in load better than chemical batteries which have a much shorter life span.
"While there are an increasing number of solar plus battery installations around now, it is the integration of batteries with the rugged mechanical inertia of flywheels to smooth grid demand which makes this installation unique," he said.
Key Energy General Manager Business Development Howard Leong said as a small commercial-scale test demonstration plant it is already drawing a lot of interest from the industry.
"Thanks to the generous support from The Armidale School in providing us a pilot demonstration site, we are able to showcase this amazing new technology from Amber Kinetics," he said.
"By pairing it with a battery, we can improve the useful life of the batteries while also providing more value to TAS, and in a world first, we can study how the two technologies can be best used together.
"We have received interest from a variety of energy retailers, distribution and transmission companies as well as engineering associations on this project, for applications in microgrids, off-grid stand alone power systems and as community storage.
"We would like to thank The Armidale School Board and staff for their support especially Pat Bradley, Susannah Warrick, Chet Davies and Gary Whitehill."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.