Teraloop’s innovation captures the sun and wind
The world is packed with renewable energy. Making use of it efficiently, however, requires ways of storing it, because the sun only shines in the day and the wind does not always blow. Finnish Teraloop believes it can rearrange the global energy landscape.
Virtually the whole world agrees it is essential to start using renewable energy sources. Teraloop knows why reality stands in the way of dreams.
”The supply of solar and wind power varies depending on the time of day and weather,” Teraloop CEO Ted Ridgway Watt explains. “If the majority of the world’s energy comes from the sun or the wind, supply won’t meet demand when it is cloudy or there is no wind. That means lights will go out.”
According to Ridgway Watt, Teraloop’s vision is to overcome the threat of power cuts. The company’s solution is to store the power from wind turbines and solar panels and release it when needed.
Teraloop’s technology is a combination of techniques used both in magnetically-levitated rail and in flywheels in a form that allows for kinetic energy to be stored safely underground and out of sight. Because the sun and wind do not produce energy at the same pace all the time, stabilising the power current is of importance, too.
“Only through storing we can make solar and wind power serve us 24 hours a day. Teraloop’s technology offers not only revolutionary storage capacity, but also a new way of balancing energy transfer and voltage variation in the grid,” Ridgway Watt says.
Ridgway Watt emphasises that storing energy is important to the whole energy industry, but the current technologies cannot meet the global demand.
“You can say we are in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.”
“Difficulties cannot be overestimated”
Storing renewable energy and releasing it on-demand is a global challenge.
“It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of it or how difficult it is to store energy using the technology that is currently available. Pumped hydroelectric storage, for example, can’t be used everywhere.”
Ridgway Watt sees the need for new innovations. The industry is desperate for solutions that enable increasing the level of renewable power sources. The door is open – all that is needed is the technology.
”Our system will utilise an already proven phenomenon, but it will be operating in more demanding conditions. In other words, the engineers’ job is to convert the art of the possible into reality. That may seem daunting but let’s face it; if the human race had run from every big challenge then we would still be chasing our dinner with spears!”
The next step for Teraloop and its partners is to build a demonstration that will be connected to the grid. Its purpose is to prove that the system can be manufactured efficiently, durably, and safely.
Then it will be turn for a larger scale pilot plant, which will showcase the technology to potential customers all over the globe. The pilot plan is scheduled to be completed in 2019.
From producing energy to innovating ways to store it
Environmentally friendly energy alternatives have been studied and developed for a good while. Ridgway Watt points out that initially the focus was on production. Once production improved, energy storage proved to be an issue.
Teraloop’s potential customers are large renewable energy companies and local distribution operators. For regular people, Teraloop’s technology means a growing supply of renewable energy for an affordable price.
“Most people recognise the need for more renewable energy,” Ridgway Watt mentions.
It is not only about Finns, but the whole world. According to Ridgway Watt, the United States and China pose the most potential, because they have the biggest production capacities of renewable energy. Europe also has developed supply of renewable energy, making it a suitable stepping stone to the global market.
“The goal is to make the Nordic countries and Europe coal-free by 2025.”
From Helsinki to all over the place
Teraloop’s home is in Helsinki, at the startup centre of Aalto University, which is where the company’s story begun. The innovators are Oskari Heikkilä and Petri Saarinen, who is also Teraloop’s chief relationship officer. In addition to Saarinen and CEO Ridgway Watt the core team includes COO Philippe Pépin and two employees.
Pépin tells that Teraloop is currently looking to expand its technological skills base. That is one of the reasons why Finland is a good base, as skilful engineers are in abundance.
Skills aside, Ridgway Watt also praises the public funding Finland offers to innovations.
“We have already been greatly supported by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, and we are looking for long-term cooperation, which will take us through the challenges ahead of us in the coming four years. Then we should have an established system ready to be commercialised.”
The company’s goal is ambitious: to make Teraloop one of the world’s leading companies in creating renewable energy solutions to global challenges of reducing CO2 emissions.
“We want to create a whole network of Teraloop storage systems all over the world, almost like an “ecological energy belt” around the world,” CRO Saarinen says.
Text: Anne Salomäki