Beacon Tests New Application for Flywheel Energy Storage

by | Mar 22, 2010

BeaconPowerflywheeltechA 20-megawatt flywheel energy storage facility is under construction in the town of Stephentown, Mass. The $69-million project is the first to prove out the technology developed and designed by Beacon Power in Tyngsboro, reports Berkshire Eagle Online.

The flywheel will provide electrical grid stability so when there is too much power on the grid, it’s shunted to the flywheel facility, turning the flywheels, and when power is needed, the momentum of the flywheels is used to generate power back into the grid.

This reduces the need to ramp up a power generator either fueled by natural gas, oil or coal, while also providing additional benefits of reducing CO2 emissions, wear and tear on the energy plant, and the burning of fuel, reports the newspaper.

Gene Hunt, corporate communications director for Beacon Power, told the newspaper that flywheel technology, although around for centuries, has never been used in this type of application.

He also said in the article that one 20-megawatt flywheel plant can provide the same regulation service as a coal-fired regulation plant and reduce CO2 emissions by more than 300,000 metric tons over a 20-year span, or the equivalent of planting 660,000 trees.

In addition, the flywheel energy storage facility delivers 90 percent energy efficiency, makes no noise, burns no fuel and has no emissions.

It takes 10 flywheels to provide one megawatt of capacity, according to Hunt. The Stephentown plant will contain 200 flywheels.

The project will be completed and operational within a year. It will be partly financed by a $43-million conditional loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Two other plants are planned for Buffalo, N.Y. area or near Chicago.

Other energy storage projects, aimed at grid stability, are underway across the nation. As an example, the Southern California Public Power Authority (SCPPA), which represents 11 municipal utilities, plans to install energy-storage devices to reduce peak power demand by shifting as much as 64 gigawatt hours of on-peak electrical consumption to off-peak periods every year.

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