Flywheels, Battery Boxes and Compressed Air Balloons

It’s useful to think about the impact of storage within an energy system the same way you might think about the role that refrigeration plays in the food system.

As sophisticated refrigeration technologies became ubiquitous, produce no longer had to be bought fresh daily from a market and could be transported across vast distances and stored safely for several days or weeks. This changed the way the world produces and purchases food. A similar shift is taking place in our energy system.

Professor Bala Venkatesh standing in the Centre for Urban Energy (CUE) at Ryerson University.

Being able to store large amounts of electricity for consumption at a later date is seen as the holy grail for engineers, and there are a variety of technologies — like flywheels, battery boxes and compressed air balloons — that are being designed and commercialized.

Bala Venkatesh, Professor and Academic Director, Centre for Urban Energy

Once these technologies become commonplace, their impact will be felt on both a societal level — allowing us to utilize wind and solar energy around the clock and transition away from fossil fuels — and personal level — helping us power our homes off-grid and use electricity to charge our cars.

Bala Venkatesh
Bala Venkatesh

Just like refrigeration in the 20th century, grid-scale energy storage has the potential to be one of the game-changing innovations of the 21st century.