Support The World's Smartest Network

Help the New York Academy of Sciences bring late-breaking scientific information about the COVID-19 pandemic to global audiences. Please make a tax-deductible gift today.

This site uses cookies.
Learn more.


This website uses cookies. Some of the cookies we use are essential for parts of the website to operate while others offer you a better browsing experience. You give us your permission to use cookies, by continuing to use our website after you have received the cookie notification. To find out more about cookies on this website and how to change your cookie settings, see our Privacy policy and Terms of Use.

We encourage you to learn more about cookies on our site in our Privacy policy and Terms of Use.


Flywheels Take Off: Energy Storage Projects Address Changing Power Demands

Flywheels Take Off
Reported by
Karla Harby

Posted December 21, 2007


The need for energy storage systems is growing, as utility companies need less expensive, less polluting, and more efficient systems for responding to rapid changes in load—both peaks and sags. This need will grow because many renewable energy sources (solar, wind, tidal) are intermittent in nature. In addition, mass transit systems require well-regulated energy supplementation during times of peak demand.

So far, however, popular energy storage systems, such as electrochemical batteries, have limitations that impair their usefulness for many applications. Batteries have relatively few charge-recharge cycles; they recharge slowly; they are temperature sensitive; and they often rely on chemicals that are not environmentally friendly. Flywheel technologies have been proposed as one alternative solution to the problem.

A November 6, 2007, meeting presented by the Academy's Green Science and Environmental Systems program provided a behind-the-scenes look at the energy storage problems facing the electrical supply infrastructure, and how flywheel technologies could help. Speakers also discussed preparations for installing a flywheel energy storage system as a demonstration project on the Long Island Rail Road.

Use the tabs to find a meeting report and multimedia from this event.

Web Sites

Composite Flywheel Energy Storage
A summary of ongoing research at Penn State University.

Low Cost Flywheel Energy Storage for a Fuel Cell Powered Transit Bus
November 2007 press release from the University of Texas at Austin Center for Electromechanics.

Mechanical Engineering Vol. 118, No. 11: Designing Safer Flywheels
Reprint of an article on containing flywheel energy.

NASA Space Research: From Child's Toy to ISS: Flywheels Hold the Power
A summary of flywheel investigations and use at NASA, with emphasis on the International Space Station.

Processor Editorial: UPS Flywheel Technology
An article explaining how flywheels can help maintain uninterruptible power supplies.

Research Institute for Sustainable Energy
This basic discussion of flywheels includes photographs.

Robert Compton Pottery
Photographs of foot-driven potter's wheels.

Books and Journal Articles

Bolund B, Bernhoff H, Leijon M. 2007. Flywheel energy and power storage systems. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 11: 238-258.

Denholm P, Margolis RM. Evaluating the limits of solar photovoltaics (PV) in electric power systems utilizing energy storage and other enabling technologies. Energy Policy 35: 4424-4433.

Liu H, Jiang J. 2007. Flywheel energy storage: an upswing technology for energy sustainability. Energy and Buildings 39: 599-604.

Schaber C, Mazza P, Hammerschlag R. 2004. Utility-scale storage of renewable energy. The Electricity Journal 17: 21-29.

van der Linden S. 2006. Bulk energy storage potential in the USA, current developments and future prospects. Energy 31: 3446-3457


Joseph H. Sayer

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)

Joseph H. Sayer is a graduate of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York City, and Syracuse (NY) University, where he studied materials science. He worked as a research engineer for Exxon Corporation for about 10 years developing synthetic fuel production processes. He joined NYSERDA in 1984. Currently he is in the Transportation and Power Systems group, where he is manager of the Energy Storage Program for NYSERDA.

Matt Lazarewicz, PE, MBA

Beacon Power Corporation

Matt Lazarewicz is vice president and chief technical officer at Beacon Power Corporation, Wilmington, Massachusetts, and is a professional engineer. He earned his bachelor's, masters, and masters of business administration degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He serves on the board of directors of the Electricity Storage Association and a member of the IEEE Power Engineering Society, where he serves as vice chair of the Distributed Generation and Energy Storage Working Group.

Edvina Uzunovic, PhD

New York Power Authority (NYPA)

Edvina Uzunovic is senior engineer for Research and Technology Development at the New York Power Authority, White Plains, New York. She is an electrical engineering graduate of the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and continued her education at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, where she received her master's degree and doctorate. She joined NYPA in 1999.

Karla Harby

As a journalist living near New York City, Karla Harby has written for Scientific American, Discover and the Reuters news agency. In her other career, she is a professional flutist.