Beacon Power (Nasdaq:BCON), the flywheel energy storage company of Tyngsboro, Mass, announced yesterday that it has been awarded a $5 million state grant for the construction of its second 20-megawatt flywheel energy storage facility. The grant was awarded by the Governor’s office for a plant to be constructed in Hazle Township, Pennsylvania.
Beacon’s flywheel energy storage technology serves the grid primarily for frequency regulation. One of the characteristics of our electrical grid is the frequency at which power is transmitted. This is 60 hertz in the US. When demand increases, the frequency will drop. Response times are regulated and must be less than 1 minute. Frequency regulation has been accomplished by companies using “spinning reserve.”
“Spinning reserve” is a power plant that is operating, consuming fuel, using water and likely producing pollution, but not contributing to the power supply. It is “spinning” so that it can be used on short notice (within 10 minutes.) It is in “reserve” waiting for demand. What is needed for frequency regulation is energy storage that can be tapped in the shortest time. In this, it is more like the need for a capacitor’s quick boost of power or a car’s acceleration than a battery or the long-term energy needs that give an EV its range.
Flywheels excel at this requirement. Response times are measured in fractions of a second. “This is remarkable new technology that will help lower the cost of electricity in the long run,” said U.S. Representative Lou Barletta (PA-11). During off-peak times, Beacon’s magnetically supported flywheels are spun up to 1500 mph in a vacuüm (16000rpm.) When the power is needed, the inertia is drawn off to generate electricity. The 25-kWh units can be combined to achieve the required capacity. It is in the nature of flywheels that speed increases energy storage faster than the weight of the flywheel. Beacon Power says: “flywheel technology consumes no fuel, produces zero emissions of any kind, and can perform faster and more cost-effectively [than spinning reserve.]” Water usage by power plants is an increasing concern, as well. The Beacon facility does not require water cooling in its operation. The energy storage is in the inertia of the flywheels. So, it’s also good for that issue.
An existing plant has been in operation from Jan 24 of this year at Stephentown, New York. It uses 200 high-speed Beacon flywheels. Beacon plans to sell frequency regulation services and not the equipment. This is due to the structure of the market, the advantages of the Beacon flywheel, and the potential profits.
Power plants that depend upon the sun or wind might take advantage of the energy storage that Beacon power flywheels can provide. Unlike some energy storage systems, this form of inertia energy storage, like photovoltaics and wind turbines, is scalable and can start operations with only part of projected capacity installed.
In addition to the $5-million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program state grant, the $53-million Hazle Township plant was also awarded a $24-million Smart Grid stimulus grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Source and Images: Beacon Power