Beacon Power wins money for long-duration flywheel development

Beacon receives $2.8 million from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy to develop the advanced "flying ring" flywheel energy storage system, building on the company's existing and composites-intensive flywheel systems.

Beacon Power Corp. (Tyngsboro, Mass., USA), a provider of advanced energy storage systems and services to support a more stable, reliable and efficient electricity grid, has signed a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) calling for Beacon to develop components of a highly advanced "flying ring" flywheel energy storage system over a two-year period, beginning immediately. The contract is valued at $2.8 million. ARPA-E grant recipients share a portion of the program cost, and Beacon would contribute $560,000, or 20 percent of the $2.8 million program total.

The development project would be to store four times the energy at one-eighth the cost per kilowatt-hour, versus Beacon's current composites-intenstive Smart Energy 25 (Gen 4) flywheel system. Beacon's Gen 4 flywheel is currently in production and being deployed on the grid to provide frequency regulation service for the storage of wind and other incremental energy.

Beacon expects that the ARPA-E-funded flywheel system, if successfully carried through to a commercial product, would be suitable for a variety of new applications. "These innovative ideas will play a critical role in our energy security and economic growth," said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "It is now more important than ever to invest in a new, clean energy economy," he added, referencing the projects ARPA-E selected for funding in July of this year.

Beacon Power was one of 43 projects selected during the competitive funding opportunity. ARPA-E had received 529 initial concept papers and encouraged 164 applicants to submit full applications. One new application of particular interest to the Department of Energy is so-called "ramping" support for wind and solar power. The goal would be to provide one hour of flywheel storage as an energy-balancing resource for intermittent renewable energy assets, and thereby reduce the amount of fossil-based backup power that might be used to provide the same effect. The benefit would be to enable significantly greater market penetration of renewable generation resources in a clean and sustainable way. Some of the technology developed under the ARPA-E program may also lead to reduced costs and increased performance for Beacon's current generation of flywheels.