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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Flywheel Energy Storage goes on line.

Base load power plants often generate more electricity than consumers demand, and that electricity often goes unused. Now Beacon Power’s energy-storage plant can apply that excess to power motors that spin carbon-fiber flywheels.

When customers need extra power, the motors stop driving the flywheels and, as the wheels decelerate, convert their motion into electricity. A flywheel is actually a kinetic, or mechanical battery, spinning at very high speeds to store energy that is instantly available when needed. Flywheels have traditionally been able to release only a small amount of energy in a relatively small burst of power. These release a large amount of energy in a large burst of power.

The company's flywheel-based approach could become even more significant in the near future, given the increasing amount of energy being added to the grid from non-linear sources such as wind. As the amount of wind generation and other intermittent renewables increase in the next ten years, the need for high-speed regulation services will clearly increase.

Today, coal or natural gas power plants are currently used for grid frequency regulation. Flywheels could allow reassignment of these plants to power generation, or disintermediate them altogether.

The company recently added 10 flywheels to its two-megawatt facility in Massachusetts, making it the first flywheel system that can feed the grid at any time.

Beacon Power's flywheels each weigh 1 ton and levitate in a sealed chamber while spinning up to 16,000 times per minute. The Department of Energy has granted Beacon a $43 million conditional loan guarantee to construct a 20-megawatt flywheel plant in upstate New York.

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Anonymous said...

Flywheels were a good idea 10 years ago, but they don't compete with Li batteries on $/kW and are way out on a $/kW*hr basis. Compare the price of a 20 MW A123 battery system (~$20 million) with 200 Beacon flywheels ($60 million). That comparison will continue to tilt in favor of batteries as BEVs become more common. Cycle life of batteries is also now sufficient. It'll be interesting to see if Beacon can get their matching funds and avoid being delisted from NASDAQ.

Anonymous said...

Flywheels can release energy much faster than battery's and last much longer (no loss of storage from the number of charge/ discharge cycles) this makes them more sutiable than batteries in some applications

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