Flywheel technology could help store energy in light rail

September 01, 2016 //By Nick Flaherty
Flywheel technology could help store energy in light rail
Researchers in Canada are building on a project in Germany to use a flywheel to store energy in light rail systems.

University of Alberta mechanical engineering professors Pierre Mertiny and Marc Secanell are looking to use flywheel technology to assist light rail transit (LRT) in Edmonton, Alberta. This would produce energy savings of 31% and cost savings of 11%, using technology under test at Hannover in Germany as a model.

Secanell and Mertiny examined the possibility of using flywheel technology to store energy generated when the city's LRT trains decelerate and stop. Trains such as the LRT are designed with dynamic braking, using traction motors on the train's wheels, for smooth stops, which generates energy. "Electric and fuel cell vehicles already implement regenerative braking in order to store the energy produced during braking for start-up, so why would trains not be able to do so?" says Secanell, whose research also focuses on fuel cell vehicle technologies.

"It's difficult to use a conventional battery for this purpose," said Mertiny. "You need to recharge and discharge a lot of energy very quickly. Batteries don't last long under those conditions. The city of Hannover is already testing flywheel technology for just this purpose. They have banks of flywheels at each station to capture and re-use the electricity generated when their trains come into the station."

Keeping the flywheels at each station meant that Hannover's trains did not have to be retro-fitted for the development.

Secanell and Mertiny are involved in a pan-Canadian Energy Storage Network investigating ways to optimize the flywheel energy storage and cost. Mertiny is also currently working with Landmark Homes of Edmonton to develop a prototype flywheel to store solar energy for household use.

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