If we are going to retool our electric grid to incorporate more renewable energy sources, we need to find better ways of storing energy. One solution that has been talked about for decades is the use of flywheels: large, heavy wheels that store energy by spinning rapidly and release it through a generator that converts it back into electricity. The upshot: A utility can swiftly ramp up supply or taper it off to meet demand. After years of false starts, the first large-scale flywheel plant is set to open in 2011. Beacon Power’s 20-Mw plant in Stephentown, New York, features 200 flywheels, each with a magnetically levitated rotor that spins at up to 16,000 rpm.
Read more: 10 Tech Concepts for 2011 - Technology Terms - Popular Mechanics