Startup Sunday: Haliburton backs flywheel energy storage

Diverging estimates of renewable energy installed


In this week’s installment of Startup Sunday, we have three companies making innovations in solar and energy storage. 

Flywheel for energy storage

The flywheel provides high-power, short duration energy storage.
Image: Helix Power

Haliburton invited flywheel energy storage developer Helix Power of Massachusetts to its cleantech accelerator, which provides seed funding and connects partners to Haliburton’s lab facilities in Houston.

The 1 MW flywheel is designed to provide high-power, short-duration energy storage, and can be installed individually or in groups.

The flywheel uses a carbon fiber motor, frictionless magnetic bearings, and is vacuum sealed. It has an estimated 95% round-trip efficiency. When surplus energy exists, the motor draws power, spinning the rotor faster, when energy is demanded again, the inertia of the rotor drives the motor, slowing the rotor and creating electricity.

The company said it can be installed below-grade, limiting obstruction, and has applications in powering seaport cranes and transit systems.

Icarus gathers heat

San-Diego’s Icarus RT also joined Haliburton Labs, chosen for partnership for its technology that collects rejected heat from solar panels to convert it to usable power.

Icarus is intended for commercial and utility-scale solar PV systems as a low-cost power-boosting and energy storage system. It is attached to the rear of a solar panel, and the company said it can produce roughly 25% more power at a lower cost per kWh than the panels alone. Additionally, the system stores heat to generate power during cloud shading and after sunset to better meet peak demand.

The project has won awards from the 2020 CalSEED Prototype Business Plan competition, selected for a $450,000 award, and won the 2020 Shell Gamechanger Powered by NREL program.

Connecting Navajo and Hopi Nations with solar 

According to the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, more than 15,000 Navajo and Hopi households live without power. Native Renewables, a Flagstaff, Arizona-based nonprofit aims to connect these families with solar power, with projects ranging from 750 W to 7 kW capacity. 

A 2.1 kW system on the Navajo reservation.
Image: Native Renewables

A recent awardee of a $1.2 million grant from Ohio-based utility IGS Energy, the group has powered 30 families’ homes, and replaced batteries in 12 units. It has also donated 3,000 smaller-capability off-grid solar kits, 1,500 last year alone. 

The group has largely been funded by public donations, and is applying for various federal grants. In addition to providing solar and energy storage, the nonprofit has provided cellphone chargers, camp lights, refrigerators, and more.

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