Engineers Dr. Hendrik Schaede, Christian Schaefer, Nicolai Meder, and Sebastian Golisch (pictured) founded Adaptive Balancing Power—a startup that aims to address the increasing volatility of grids with its flywheel energy storage system.
The Climate-KIC startup has not only begun a big pilot project in Ireland, but was also the audience favourite of Climate Launchpad 2014 and a finalist of the Climate Impact Battle Venture Competition 2017. Now, the founders are entering the big stage at SLUSH: in front of 20,000 spectators they’ll pitch their business idea as a Slush 100 startup in Helsinki. Shortly before finishing the last stage of Climate-KIC’s accelerator, we talked to Sebastian about the business idea, special challenges, and his energy visions.
Which problem can you solve with your business?
“Renewable energies are the energies of the future. But the sun doesn’t shine at night and the wind doesn’t blow every day. In the case of renewable energies, there are simply far more fluctuations than in conventional energies—and these have to be balanced out. Until now, conventional power plants have been doing this. But, if they’re going off the grid, then alternatives have to be found.”
“Exactly. Lithium-ion batteries, for example, are very expensive and can break down quickly due to the many cycles. And in the case of demand-side management, i.e. adapted consumption, such as in refrigerators or lamps that switch on and off automatically, the potential is too limited.”
And it’s also difficult to convey to the end customer. People don’t like to restrict themselves so much…
“Right. That’s why other solutions must be found. And we used one of the oldest techniques: the potter’s wheel. This means that we store energy in a rotary motion.”
How did you come up with that?
“My co-founder Hendrik Schaede had already started working on the so-called flywheel energy storage system in 2008 when he was awarded his doctorate in mechanical engineering. Our potter’s wheel is of course not a real potter’s wheel, but a hollow cylinder made of carbon, which rotates frictionlessly in a vacuum with magnetic bearings—a technology based on the basic research of Hendriks’ institute. And by combining these high-technologies, it’s cheaper than lithium-ion batteries in the end.”
“Because the system is virtually wear-free. We offer an unlimited life span: you can charge and discharge as often as you want, and the system is completely recyclable.”
Why does the world need you?
“Because we can replace conventional power plants and their grid-stabilising influence with our storage facilities. And one of our storage facilities can save up to 140 tonnes of CO2.”
Great for all of us. And which customers do you want to address in particular?
“Our customers are power plant operators or municipal utilities that participate in the control power market.”
Would it still be useful for the end user in the long-term?
“Rather not in the household use, because our storage system only stores a few minutes of energy. In combination with other storage technologies, however, our storage can also be of interest to the end customer. In cars, for example, we can significantly reduce the high stress on lithium-ion batteries.”
What are your biggest challenges at the moment?
“The energy business, which currently consists mainly of power plants and consumers, has still no clear legal framework for storage technologies. However, everyone expects this to improve. In addition, we manufacture the individual components externally and integrate them into a finished solution. With a high number of suppliers, there are new surprises every day.”
What keeps you going?
“All the positive feedback from all kind of directions. And above all the knowledge: something has to happen! Otherwise things will only get worse in the energy sector. The grids are becoming increasingly unstable, because the energy transition has been decided upon. That’s why there will be much stronger fluctuations in the future. And our storage facility is simply a wonderful solution for that.”
What’s your vision for the future of energy supply?
“A world in which many small plants supply decentralised energy, where many different storage options exist and of course a big number of flywheel energy storage systems from us—and where demand-based access to energy is optimised through better networking. That’ll definitely come. And I look forward to it!”
This interview was held by Anna Schunck, Journalist and Co-Founder of Viertel \ Vor.