Beacon receives federal money to develop next-generation flywheel

The $2.25 million award would be used to develop a next-generation flywheel energy storage system to store four times the energy at one-eighth the cost, versus Beacon's current composites-intensive Smart Energy 25 (Gen 4) flywheel system.

Beacon Power Corp. (Tyngsboro, Mass., USA), a provider of advanced energy storage products and services to support a more stable, reliable and efficient electricity grid, has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to negotiate a $2.25 million award in support of developing a next-generation flywheel energy storage system. The goal would be to store four times the energy at one-eighth the cost, versus Beacon's current composites-intensive Smart Energy 25 (Gen 4) flywheel system.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy (ARPA-E), an agency within DOE that provides R&D funding for transformational new energy technologies and systems, made the award based on Beacon's proposal to develop a highly advanced "flying ring" flywheel system. The development program would take place over a three-year period beginning later this year, and is valued at a total of $2.8 million, pending contractual agreement. 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.

"We are extremely pleased to be included among this very select list of cutting-edge energy storage projects funded by ARPA-E," said Bill Capp, Beacon president and CEO. "The storage capacity of our current Gen 4 flywheel is unmatched by any other flywheel-based product, and its cycling capabilities and 20-year operational life are already well ahead of any chemical battery system. With this funding we will work to develop a lower-cost flywheel system that will advance the state of the art far beyond where it is today. If successful, it will open up a number of new commercially attractive applications and markets for clean, long-life flywheel-based energy storage."

Beacon's Gen 4 flywheel is currently deployed and earning revenue on the grid providing frequency regulation, a service that demands thousands of charge-discharge cycles each year. Beacon expects that the ARPA-E-funded flywheel system, if carried through to a commercial product, would be suitable for a variety of other applications where the cost per unit of stored energy is the most critical factor, and the number of charge-discharge cycles is somewhat less important. These applications include: large-scale ramping and load following support for wind and solar power in a way that reduces the need for standby regional peak power generator capacity; wind-diesel-storage hybrid systems that reduce diesel fuel consumption on island-based grids; and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) applications that require an hour or more of assured power.

Beacon's proposal calls for initiating development of a next-generation flywheel energy storage module with a size of 100 kWh and 100 kW, capable of storing four times the energy at one-eighth the cost-per-energy-unit, as compared to the company's current Gen 4 flywheel. The new flywheel would be capable of more than 40,000 full charge/discharge cycles in its lifetime, thereby achieving a cost per storage cycle below ARPA-E's goal of $0.025/kWh.