A company that is commercializing new technology for storing energy has won a contract to deliver a two Megawatts flywheel energy storage facility for Ontario’s independent electricity system operator.
For NRStor Inc. it will be the first commercial test in Canada of flywheel technology, a mechanical battery that stores electricity as kinetic motion in a spinning rotor levitated on magnetic bearings.
NRStor sees a big future in energy storage, as a way for the manager of an electrical grid to match supply and demand, says Annette Verschuren, chair and CEO of the company.
“There is a lot of energy coming in off the grid and the grid needs to manage it,” said Verschuren in an interview with CBC’s The Lang & O’Leary Exchange.
“These flywheels take in the energy, hold the energy for a short period of time and release it, so it allows the system operator to manage the quality of the energy much more efficiently. It’s a better use of any surplus energy that we have.”
The energy source that will benefit the most from having storage options is renewable, says Verschuren, who was president of Home Depot until earlier this year. If the wind is blowing, but there is no demand for the electricity at that time, there needs to be a way of storing for use later.
“One of the challenges we have in Ontario is we’re getting more and more renewable energy on our grid so managing that with the base energy that we have from nuclear and hydro and gas, that is difficult. So energy storage really allows the operater to take in more renewable energy,” Verschuren said.
NRStor estimates the global energy storage market at $35 billion, with Ontario and Alberta likely customers because of their use of renewables and the U.S. opening up as it moves away from coal.
The company is developing several different kinds of energy storage solutions – in addition to the flywheel storage, there is a range of emerging battery technology and storage using compressed air.
“What we do is take those emerging technologies that are close to commercialization and we help them get to commercialization,” Verschuren said.