A Finnish innovation helps make the shift to solar and wind energy economically viable.
The use of renewable sources of energy may in the near future become so efficient that they will satisfy the electricity need of the entire planet.
A Finnish innovation addresses one of the greatest challenges of energy industry: the need to store energy. Teraloop has come up with an innovative technique for storing energy underground efficiently and safely. The innovation makes use of both magnetic levitation and flywheel technologies.
In addition to energy storage, Teraloop also provides a new way to balance transmission loads and voltage fluctuation in high-voltage grids. This is a key concern in the use of renewable energy because the amount of energy produced by solar and wind power plants varies with the hour of the day and the weather.
The innovation by Oskari Heikkilä and Petri Saarinen was developed in the Aalto University Start-Up Center and is well on its way to becoming a viable commercial application. Teraloop is currently in the process of designing the prototype.
1) Which energy challenge will Teraloop solve, inventor Oskari Heikkilä?
“The innovation allows renewable energy to be stored and accessed easily when needed. Solar and wind energy is currently available only when the sun shines and the wind blows. Teraloop would allow us to produce most of our energy from renewables also at night and in calm weather without interruptions.
The storage of electricity is one of the greatest challenges in the energy industry, and current technologies are unable to satisfy the enormous demand globally.”
2) How will it improve the quality of life?
“Without energy and electricity we would have nothing. The sun and the wind are sources of endless cheap energy provided we have the right technology to fully use their potential. Making the shift to renewable energy will improve living conditions by mitigating climate change and contributing to a cleaner environment.
The innovation is Finnish, and the pilot plant will probably also be built in Finland. The invention will improve welfare in Finland by creating a major export article and jobs.”
3) How does the innovation support sustainable development?
“With Teraloop all energy can in the future be produced by the sun and the wind. Renewable energy does not have a dominant position in the sector yet as much of the energy is lost because there is no efficient way to store it. Had an innovation like Teraloop’s been developed 30 years ago, renewables would be the only energy technology in use today.
This innovation allows us to mitigate climate change very efficiently. About 30 percent of carbon emissions come from energy production, and with Teraloop this can be reduced to zero.”
4) Future vision: what will the innovation have become in ten years’ time?
“It will have become a commercial export article for Finland, and storage facilities will be installed around the world at a rate of perhaps a hundred per year.
Ten years will mean huge advances in the innovation because the pilot plant is set to be completed in 2019. Commercialization can begin in about four years.”
5) Have similar innovations been made elsewhere in the world?
“No other revolutionary innovations in renewable energy storage have been made on this scale. By combining ideas we had played with earlier we came up with the insight that this is a great method to store energy.
Teraloop’s capacity to store energy corresponds to a huge hydroelectric dam. The ring-shaped facility we are designing is 500 meters in diameter and it will have a capacity of 16 gigawatt hours and an output of 500 megawatts. The pilot plant in Finland will be smaller, a hundred meters in diameter. In spite of the large capacity, our solution is a purely mechanical system which is located underground and needs relatively little space.”
Text: Laura Manas
Find all the stories in the series under the category “Theme: Energy”.