Beacon Power, National Grid to cooperate on flywheel technology

National Grid will evaluate Beacon's flywheel technology for the storage of energy from wind and other renewable resources.

Beacon Power Corp. (Tyngsboro, Mass.), a company that designs and develops advanced products and services to support more stable, reliable and efficient electricity grid operation, announced on Jan. 26 that it has executed an information sharing and performance evaluation agreement with the energy utility company National Grid (Westborough, Mass).

Under the two-year agreement, the companies will share technical, performance and economic data associated with Beacon's flywheel energy storage systems and their potential operational value to National Grid's electricity transmission networks. Objectives of the agreement include National Grid's evaluation of Beacon's flywheel energy storage systems not only for fast-response frequency regulation, but also for wind-related ramp mitigation - another potential large-scale grid stability application.

Flywheel technology, which has made extensive use of composites, has been under consideration and development as a way to store energy derived from wind and other renewable sources. Of particular concern is use of flywheels to store wind energy captured during low-demand or off-peak cycles.

"National Grid is committed to assessing new energy technologies and their capacity to help create a more efficient, environmentally responsible and cost-effective modern grid," said Stan Blazewicz, vice president, global head of technology for National Grid. "The positive attributes of flywheel energy storage - especially its high-efficiency, zero-carbon emissions, and extremely fast response - make it a technology of significant interest and one we are keen to investigate."

"National Grid is one of the largest investor-owned utility companies in the world, with an extensive footprint in the United Kingdom as well as the northeastern U.S.," said Bill Capp, Beacon Power president and CEO. "Prior to this agreement, we collaborated closely with National Grid in 2006 and 2007 on our demonstration system in Amsterdam, N.Y., as well as more recently on three interconnection projects in Massachusetts and New York. We believe that additional benefits can come from the broader sharing of information provided by this new agreement."

Beacon Power and National Grid will focus on the sharing of technical information and performance results for Beacon's Smart Energy Matrix, the energy storage-based regulation resource that Beacon is now operating under ISO New England's Alternative Technologies Program. The two companies will also be sharing technical information and analysis of the potential economic and performance benefits of fast-response flywheel regulation and wind-related ramp mitigation, in both the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

Ramp mitigation refers to the ability of regulation and reserve generation units to quickly compensate for a rapid system-wide change in aggregate power output caused by sudden changes in power production. As an intermittent resource, wind power generation often experiences rapid fluctuations in power output. As the amount of wind generation on the grid increases, many grid operators foresee the need to increase total regional ramping capacity to maintain proper energy balance.

Under terms of the agreement, Beacon will work with National Grid to forecast future increases in the demand for regulation capacity resulting from greater deployment of wind power. National Grid will also work with Beacon Power to define an optimal control algorithm for Beacon's fast-response energy storage technology that would maximize regulation benefits on the grid.