In recent years, rising energy costs and green legislation have made energy saving a priority when it comes to saving costs and UPS is an important tool to help businesses achieve this.

Manufacturers like Riello UPS have invested heavily in developing and introducing products with high efficiency ratings, as well as finding ways of ensuring the eco credentials of power protection systems.

Flywheel UPS is one such technology which has increased in popularity due to its compact size (in comparison to battery banks), high-energy efficiency, low maintenance, lifetime cost, silent operation and zero emissions.

Here, Riello’s General Manager Robin Koffler, discusses flywheel UPS systems and the pros and cons of this emerging technology.

Why flywheel could be the right choice

“Flywheel technology has advanced beyond the large, industrial solutions of yesteryear. It is now commercially viable for UPS application and data centres in particular, where the necessity to reduce energy consumption and reduce total cost of ownership is equal to the need to provide resilient and scalable power protection for critical applications.

Due to its high energy density and compact size in comparison to battery banks, flywheels have gained popularity in data centres where space is at a premium. Also, compared with other ways of storing electricity, flywheels have long lifetimes and can last for decades with little maintenance required.

Flywheel UPS is also an attractive option because it is unaffected by temperature changes, unlike batteries, meaning it can significantly reduce the need for costly cooling within the UPS vicinity. 

Whereas batteries are limited in their life cycle typically to 1,500 cycles, flywheels do not suffer from memory effect or from the effects of cycling and the rapid charging of a system can be as quick as 120 seconds, depending on the charge current available.

Thinking about Flywheel

While the advantages of flywheel are clear, there are a number of things that need to be considered when making the decision to deploy this type of UPS.

The gradual uptake of flywheel technology in the USA has led to increased knowledge, understanding and the desire to implement it elsewhere in the world, especially across the EMEA region. Suppliers expect demand to rise considerably as the long term cost savings of these systems are realised.

The capital cost of purchasing a flywheel UPS is higher than a comparatively rated traditional UPS and battery solution, but over its lifetime saves money as it negates the requirement for battery replacement and heavy-duty maintenance. The cost saving can be as high as twice the initial outlay over the product’s lifetime (more for larger systems). Over a 20-year life-span, cost savings from a flywheel versus a five-minute VRLA lead acid battery bank, for example, can range from £65,000 – £130,000 per flywheel deployed.

Flywheels are not an alternative to UPS batteries in every application, but are worth considering for many. A large number of recent projects have been won due to the input of forward thinking and pro-active electrical contractors.

There is certainly a buzz about flywheel technology permeating the industry and electrical contractors who adopt a consultative approach and partner with specialist suppliers can expect to pick up lucrative work specifying and installing flywheels over the next 12 months.”