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Ontario electricity gets taken for a spin

November 10, 2014
The trouble with electricity is that no one’s figured out how to bottle it when there’s too much, and uncork it later when there’s too little.

An unassuming industrial building 160 kilometres northwest of Toronto houses an operation that’s trying to store juice — not in bottles, but by using rapidly spinning, four-tonne steel cylinders.

It’s the brainchild of Annette Verschuren, chief executive of NRStor Inc. — which owns the operation — and Cam Carver, chief executive of Temporal Power Ltd. — which supplied the technology.

Storing electrical energy is an increasing challenge, especially as Ontario and other jurisdictions turn to sources such as wind and solar power that vary with the weather.

The province’s long-term energy plan is seeking 50 megawatts of energy storage capacity.

Toronto-based NRStor and Mississauga-based Temporal are testing flywheel technology for this trial: Using energy from the power grid to set the cylinders spinning, then using the momentum stored in the spinning cylinders to generate power and return it to the grid when needed.

It is, say Carver and Verschuren, the first grid-connected operation of its type in Canada.

Carver, the proud technology papa, adds: “It stores more energy than any flywheel in the world.”

The heart of the facility lies in vaults beneath 10 massive, round concrete caps that line the floor.

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Energy