Energy storage systems (ESS) provide a means for improving the efficiency of electrical systems when there are imbalances between supply and demand. Additionally, they are a key element for improving the stability and quality of electrical networks. They add flexibility into the electrical system by mitigating the supply intermittency, recently made worse by an increased penetration of renewable generation. One energy storage technology now arousing great interest is the flywheel energy storage systems (FESS), since this technology can offer many advantages as an energy storage solution over the alternatives. Flywheels have attributes of a high cycle life, long operational life, high round-trip efficiency, high power density, low environmental impact, and can store megajoule (MJ) levels of energy with no upper limit when configured in banks. This paper presents a critical review of FESS in regards to its main components and applications, an approach not captured in earlier reviews. Additionally, earlier reviews do not include the most recent literature in this fast-moving field. A description of the flywheel structure and its main components is provided, and different types of electric machines, power electronics converter topologies, and bearing systems for use in flywheel storage systems are discussed. The main applications of FESS are explained and commercially available flywheel prototypes for each application are described. The paper concludes with recommendations for future research.
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