NASA G2 flywheel module
NASA flywheel.jpg
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Flywheel energy storage - Flywheels can be used to store kinetic energy. This NASA prototype is a particularly high-tech example.

Sustainable energy storage is accomplished by devices or physical media that store some form of energy, in a sustainable way, to perform some useful operation at a later time. A device that stores energy is sometimes called an accumulator. The requirement that the energy storage device be sustainable means that its use "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."[1]

All forms of energy are either potential energy (e.g. Chemical, gravitational, electrical energy, etc.) or kinetic energy (e.g. thermal energy). A wind-up clock stores potential energy (in this case mechanical, in the spring tension), a battery stores readily convertible chemical energy to operate a mobile phone, and a hydroelectric dam stores energy in a reservoir as gravitational potential energy. Ice storage tanks store ice (thermal energy) at night to meet peak demand for cooling. Fossil fuels such as coal and gasoline store ancient energy derived from sunlight by organisms that later died, became buried and over time were then converted into these fuels. Even food (which is made by the same process as fossil fuels) is a form of energy stored in chemical form. It is important to note that fossil fuels, however, are not considered to be sustainable energy storage devices. This is because fossil fuels are Wikipedia:non-renewable resources.

In the future, sustainable energy storage devices may be an integral part of every person's life. This is because the world is moving toward sustainable electrical energy sources which, unfortunately, cannot supply electricity every minute of every day (e.g. photovoltaics or wind power). An early solution to the problem of storing energy for electrical purposes was the development of the battery as an electrochemical storage device. Batteries have previously been of limited use in electric power systems due to their relatively small capacity and high cost, however since about the middle of the first decade of the 21st Century newer battery technologies have been developed that can now provide significant utility scale load-leveling capabilities.[2] A similar possible solution to deal with the intermittency issue of solar and wind energy is found in the capacitor.

Types of energy storage

There are many ways to sustainably store potential or kinetic energy for later use. Some more specific examples are:

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Tools and software

Funding Opportunities

See also: Grants

  • There are US$185 million of energy storage grants available through the United States Department of Energy under the 2009 Recovery Act. They are laid out on
  • The 2009 Recovery Act also provides for "US$2.3 billion in tax credits for qualified investments in advanced energy projects, to support new, expanded, or re-equipped domestic manufacturing facilities."[4] See this link.
  • "The Energy Innovations Small Grant (EISG) Program provides up to $95,000 for hardware projects and $50,000 for modeling projects to small businesses, non-profits, individuals and academic institutions to conduct research that establishes the feasibility of new, innovative energy concepts."[5] See this link.
  • The National Science Foundation (of the United States) is offering funding under the Environmental Sustainability program: "The Environmental Sustainability program supports engineering research with the goal of promoting sustainable engineered systems that support human well-being and that are also compatible with sustaining natural (environmental) systems. These systems provide ecological services vital for human survival. The long-term viability of natural capital is critical for many areas of human endeavor. Research in Environmental Sustainability typically considers long time horizons and may incorporate contributions from the social sciences and ethics."[6]
  • The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) is offering funding for research into energy storage systems. "Canada’s capacity to store energy is currently an underdeveloped component of its energy-management capabilities. Researchers are encouraged to develop transformative technologies for high-capacity, high-efficiency storage of heat, electricity, hydrogen or other energy carriers."[7] See this link.

Relevant literature

Relevant journals

See also: Journals

Companies that support sustainable energy storage

All descriptions are from the website homepage indicated.

  • Energy Storage Council (ESC) - The ESC was founded to promote the research, development and deployment of storage technologies as well as to raise awareness of the importance of storage for the future of America's electricity supply and energy security.[8]
  • The UK Energy Storage Consortium (UKESC) - The UKESC's aims are to accelerate development of energy storage systems, and to provide strategies for their rapid implementation into the UK energy sector.[9]
  • American Biofuels Council - The American Biofuels Council (ABC) is the national institute for biofuel research, analysis, development, and education in the United States. They are a think and do tank with a heavy emphasis on technology transfer. ABC is the leading solutions provider in the field of biofuels. A collaborative organization, which coordinates and interacts with a broad range of cooperators including private enterprise, government, and academia. ABC is also a leading adviser to energy companies, transportation sectors, financial institutions, technology providers, governments, and most importantly to consumers.[10]
  • Battery Council International - The trade association for the lead-acid battery industry.[11]
  • A123 Systems - A123 Systems delivers advanced batteries and complete energy storage systems that enable their customers to develop and commercialize next-generation applications. With breakthrough technology, robust systems integration capabilities and demonstrated products in the field, they can help transform innovative concepts into market-ready solutions.[12]
  • Ballard Power Systems - Ballard Power Systems designs and manufactures clean energy hydrogen fuel cells. They put fuel cells to work through smarter, clean and reliable power solutions.[13]
  • Active Power - Active Power provides the most energy-efficient critical power solutions and UPS systems in the world. Their inherently reliable and economically green flywheel-based solutions ensure business continuity in the event of power disturbances. Their expert power system engineers and worldwide service and support teams will make sure that your business has the power to perform.[14]

Job opportunities

There are many green energy-focused companies out there who are hiring people for jobs relating to sustainable energy storage. Some green job portals are located at:

See also: Suggested projects

Related videos

How to make Lithium Polymer Batteries for Electric Car

VYCON Flywheel Energy Storage

How to make Biofuel, Biodiesel, Biofuel Products

Future research

  • Flywheel energy storage is a very interesting sustainable energy storage solution which could prove to be significant in the future.
  • ExtremeTech has a great article on the past, present, and future of battery technology.
  • Biofuels are increasing in importance. Whether or not they are considered "sustainable," they are going to be around for some time. The Economist has a great article on the future for biofuels.


  1. This widely accepted definition of Sustainability comes from the Brundtland Commission in a 1987 report for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), specifically referring to economic development. Other terms can replace "development", however, and the definition remains valid. "Activities", behaviors", "practices", "energy", "consumption" are some of those terms.
  2. Wild, Matthew, L. Wind Drives Growing Use of Batteries, New York Times, July 28, 2010, pp.B1.
  3. Environmental Audit Committee of the United Kingdom House of Commons, Are biofuels sustainable?, Volume 1, January 2008.
  8. Energy Storage Council
  9. The UK Energy Storage Consortium
  10. American Biofuels Council
  11. Battery Council International
  12. A123 Systems
  13. Ballard Power Systems
  14. Active Power