Australia is one of the top performers in the global renewable energy revolution, and solar energy has played a key role. During the past few years, the number of new households that installed rooftop solar in Australia has risen rapidly, increasing from just over 283, 000 in 2019 to over 378,000 in 2020. The remarkable uptake of solar demonstrates the eagerness of Australians to phase in clean energy.

With one of the world’s highest solar radiations by square meter rates, Australia is uniquely advantaged over other solar markets. The average solar radiation received is a whopping 10,000 times higher than the country’s annual energy demands. In October 2021, in Southern Australia, the country’s leading solar region, enough solar and wind energy was produced to power the region’s primary energy grid for almost 30 days. By the end of 2021, the large-scale solar photovoltaic conversions had increased by 38% from the previous year.

While Australia has one of the highest levels of solar energy uptake worldwide, solar energy only accounts for a small fraction of the country’s overall energy consumption. One of the problems faced in the solar industry is the intermittent nature of the sun. Solar energy is generated during daylight hours when solar radiation is at its peak, but the electricity demand extends well after the sun has set. Even with an abundance of solar energy, if peak energy generation hours do not coincide with top consumption hours, the users cannot access the energy. Thus, the shift towards large-scale solar energy consumption requires more than converting solar energy to electricity. To support large-scale energy grids in the same capacity as non-renewable energy sources, it is essential to identify a long-duration energy storage system for solar energy. The solar storage system must be economical and able to be scaled up to a sufficient level.

Traditional energy storage systems like battery cells are effective, but they are often produced unsustainably. Battery manufacturers use non-recyclable materials and source these from several parts of the world— an inherently carbon-intensive process. Using unsustainable energy storage methods to store solar energy counteracts the positive environmental impacts of using solar energy. Engineering clean options for energy storage has been challenging. Still, recently, an energy storage solution has emerged that has the potential to bridge the gap between solar energy and large-scale grid electricity infrastructure. The solution is flywheel energy storage technology.

The flywheel’s energy input spins the flywheel and stores the energy inputs in a rotational reserve that can be used on-demand to supply energy to the electric grid whenever solar radiation is low. In the past, flywheel energy storage technology was not considered a viable option as traditional flywheel energy storage systems could only discharge energy for mere minutes— nothing close to what is required to support a large-scale grid system. Amber Kinetics, an industry leader in manufacturing utility-scale flywheel energy storage systems, has changed the game by creating the world’s first-ever multi-hour flywheel energy storage system.

The cutting-edge technology features a discharge duration of 4 hours and a power capacity of 8 kW per unit with no cycle limitation. In terms of sustainability, Amber Kinetics flywheels are manufactured from 50% recycled steel, are fully recyclable, and do not release any hazardous waste over their lifetime: they are one of the most sustainable energy storage systems in the market.

Renewable energy currently accounts for a fraction of Australia’s total electricity consumption. But as innovative solutions such as long-duration flywheel energy storage systems continue to reshape the boundaries of what is possible in the solar energy industry, the solar energy industry will become even more integral in Australia’s long-term renewable energy agenda.