Getting a new energy storage solution off to a flying start

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Sara Ver-Bruggen
2 min 15

Low Carbon London (LCLDN) grants from Sustainable Innovation helped Oxto Energy to:

  • Hire a power electronics engineer, and
  • Develop a power electronics and control system.

Oxto were also able to benefit from consultancy from LSBU's Head of Cognitive Systems Research Center, Tasos Dagiuklas.

As global economies seek to decarbonise not just their power systems, but transport and heating, electricity will become a dominant energy carrier by 2050. Renewable sources, including solar and wind, will be meeting the majority of power demand.

Energy storage, which spans a range of different technologies, will play a crucial role in integrating variable renewable generation within grids. Energy storage can help maintain grid stability by providing synthetic inertia. It can store surplus renewable generation for consumption peaks, which would otherwise be curtailed, ensuring that loads, such as electric vehicle (EV) chargers, can be supplied with clean electricity.

Oxto Energy’s Flywheel Technology

UK start-up Oxto Energy is commercialising a modular and low-maintenance stationary storage system based on a magnet-free flywheel technology.

Oxto Energy’s flywheel storage system is made from widely available components and materials, mainly copper and steel and is virtually fully recyclable. The flywheel can be installed above ground without any additional containment, minimising installation time and cost.

A render of a blue flywheel has been added to this photo of two trams..
An illustrative example of Oxto's Magnet-free Flywheel.

Having developed the hardware, Oxto Energy needed to bring in expertise to develop the power electronics and control system need to drive and operate the flywheel, in a range of applications. These include, for example, solar demand shifting, providing grid stability, mitigating expensive grid upgrades for EV fast charger installations and providing uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for manufacturing.

Working With Sustainable Innovation

Our Sustainable Innovation programme was able to help Oxto in recruiting a power electronics engineer, providing a grant to cover 40% of the new hire’s salary. LSBU’s head of the University’s Cognitive Systems Research Centre, Tasos Dagiuklas, was also on hand to provide expertise and feedback.

“Finding the specific talent for this position had been exceedingly difficult due to the niche nature and large knowledge base and skills required.

“Without the support from LSBU, we wouldn’t have been able to recruit such skilled labour and thus, the project would’ve been completely stood still with no ability to control or drive the flywheel unit,”
George Prassinos.

Along with the other Oxto team members, power electronics engineer, Harris Shallcross, redesigned the flywheel, for applications that support the transition towards a carbon free future. A benefit of there designed “mechanical battery” is its ability to act as a fast responseresource during peak energy demand periods. The system requires minimal maintenance, reducing operational costs.

A flywheel sits in the middle of a grey, bare room. The flywheel is made of a dark steel. It is a short cylinder shape, sitting on its side, surrounded by long flat panels.
The completed Flywheel design waiting for its' blue colour wrap to be added.

Shallcross’ work at Oxto has included completing the power electronic design of the flywheel controller, writing codes for the control and operation of the flywheel as well as carry out various analyses to improve the flywheel’s design and optimise system efficiency.

Pilot

There have been a few delays to the project due to covid-19, which prevented access to labs at various stages throughout the project in 2020. However, Oxto has continued to focus on commercialising its flywheel storage system and has a pilot arranged in Kenya. The flywheel system will be used in a UPS application at a tea factory and will be delivered in partnership with local clean energy engineering company, Ariya Finergy.

Images supplied by Oxto Energy. Find out more about them at www.oxtoenergy.com.