Two remote Scottish islands are turning to Formula One technology to stabilise their power grids and improve energy efficiency.
The Isle of Eigg and Fair Isle will be the first sites in Europe to install composite flywheel energy storage systems into their power networks.
The technology was pioneered by Williams in response to the introduction of kinetic energy recovery systems (Kers) into Grand Prix racing in 2009, and has since been introduced into other applications such as hybrid buses and Le Mans winning racing cars.
Williams Advanced Engineering, the division of Williams that commercialises Formula One-derived technologies, has joined forces with the Fair Isle Electricity Company and Eigg Electric to identify possible operational improvements, energy saving and environmental benefits from installing the technology on each island.
The project is partially being funded by an extended grant from the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s Energy Entrepreneurs Fund.
Fair Isle’s electricity network relies heavily on wind turbines and diesel generators, and can only guarantee power during the day. Flywheel technology will smooth the power flowing from the wind turbines and inject stored energy when needed.
Robert Mitchell, director of Fair Isle Electric Company, explained: “This equipment will provide a much-needed buffer to improve our power quality and reduce how often we use the diesel generators. Our two wind turbines produce more than enough power most of the time but they cannot store energy so this will be an excellent addition.”
The Isle of Eigg power network draws on a variety of renewable sources which include solar, hydro and wind power and currently uses lead acid batteries to store excess energy and smooth the flow of power.
The flywheel energy storage system will take on the smoothing role so that the batteries can be used for their main job of long-term bulk energy storage. This will not only prolong battery life but also improve the transient response of the network and increase its fault-clearing capability.
Sarah Boden, director of Eigg Electric, said: “We expect the new flywheel energy storage to be used for short-term frequency regulation when generation drops off, such as when clouds obscure the solar array. Our island is managed by a partnership approach and this joint effort will further improve power quality and security of supply for the island power system.”