Genesis Morocco: US DOE finalizes $43 million loan guarantee for flywheel project

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Genesis Morocco

Project Genesis is a strategic sustainable development framework for Morocco to translate from being a net importer of energy and a country facing water shortage issues, into the number one producer both of clean renewable energy and water in the region.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010    <<Home

US DOE finalizes $43 million loan guarantee for flywheel project

I have written a while ago about the potential of flywheels for energy storage in a post untitled addressing the energy storage question. It seems technology is maturing fast since Sandia first started exploring the possible use of flywheels kinetic energy for storage.

August 9, 2010
Source: U.S. Department of Energy

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that a $43 million loan guarantee has been finalized for Beacon Power Corporation's 20 megawatt innovative flywheel energy storage plant in Stephentown, NY. The plant will help improve the stability and reliability of the state's electric grid and Beacon estimates it will create 20 construction jobs in New York and 40 permanent jobs in Massachusetts. Beacon Power is an energy storage company headquartered in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts.

"This project demonstrates our ongoing commitment to helping bring clean technologies to market," said Secretary Chu. "We will continue to support the development and deployment of innovative energy systems like this energy storage project that support our goal of expanding renewable energy generation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

"This is truly exciting news for the Rensselaer County and for New York State," said Senator Kristen Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee. "It is the continued development of new energy technologies, like the fly-wheel system designed by Beacon Power that will move our nation forward towards a clean energy economy. This significant investment will create green jobs, spur economic development, and help bring increased energy reliability for New Yorkers."

"As our country seeks to move toward a 21st century clean energy economy, this flywheel energy storage plant in Stephentown is exactly the type of innovative new project to get us there. I am pleased to join Secretary Chu in making this announcement and look forward to continuing to work to make our nation energy independent," said Congressman Scott Murphy.

Beacon's Gen 4 flywheel system is specifically designed to perform frequency regulation on utility grids by absorbing and discharging energy to balance power generation and consumption on the electric grid. The technology operates by using flywheels to quickly store and release from the grid in order to follow rapid changes in grid demand. Flywheel-based regulation is fast and efficient, ramping up or down 10 times faster than ramp rates for conventional fossil fuel generators that typically perform this service.

Beacon estimates that a 20 megawatt flywheel-based frequency regulation plant will reduce carbon dioxide emissions up to 82 percent over its 20-year life compared to a coal, gas or pumped hydro plant. The flywheel plant also does not emit air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide or sulfur dioxide.

Once done, Beacon Power said that the plant will be the only one of its kind in the world. Rather than use a large battery, it will use a network of 200 flywheels to store electricity from the grid as kinetic energy and disperse it in quick bursts of up to 15 minutes.
Right now, grid operators typically use natural gas power plants to maintain a balance between supply and demand and keep a steady frequency of 60 cycles per second. The Stephentown project, expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter next year, will be able to provide 10 percent of the frequency regulation services in New York needed on a typical day.
The project is significant step up for the technology, which so far has been used in smaller-scale installation of about one megawatt of power.
The New York storage installation paves the way for higher penetration of solar and wind power generation. Since they are variable sources of power, utilities are looking at different forms of grid storage to smooth out the delivery of power from renewable sources.
Beacon Power, based in Tyngsboro, Mass., has benefited significantly from federal and state policies aimed at boosting clean-energy technologies. In addition to the DOE loan guarantee, which took more than two years to secure, Beacon Power has received money for technology demonstrations, such as attached flywheel storage to the Tehachapi wind project in California.

These flywheels are designed for big amounts of power but for very short periods, like a few minutes, just to maintain a steady frequency (which is now done with natural gas plants). The sodium sulfur batteries can store more energy--that is, they can deliver their power for longer periods if they need to. Not sure if there's an available cost comparison, but as I understand it, Beacon Power's business model is to get paid for the frequency regulation services, not to sell the flywheels themselves.

The flywheel is suspended by magnetic levitation and it runs in a vacuum. There is no mechanical connection to the flywheel; it works entirely electrically, acting as the rotor in a motor/generator. So, friction is near zero and efficiency is very high. This is a great advancement on an old technology, not just a new take on it. // comment gleaned from CNET :

There is no theoretical limit to the size of such a "flywheel." It's like a small planet rotating in space. There est also no limit to the number of units.

personal notes : Fascinating perspective… We can envision massive flywheel farms in the future. Theses farms could store large amounts of renewable energy, that is by nature fluctuating over the production cycle. Flywheels would help correct the variations, and yield a steady output.

What is to be devised is a scheme that allows for the unloading in sequences of the charged flywheels, so we can obtain a continuous energy stream ! If we succeed in achieving that, then we can correct not only minor power fluctuations but also correct larger variations during the production cycle and store renewable energy at will, which I believe is the Holy Grail as far as renewables are concerned.

Resources : interesting comments.