Beacon Power Corp.’s (Wilmington, Mass.) demonstration of a flywheel energy regulation system in California has won certification from the California Energy Commission, the state’s primary energy policy and planning agency, and is now very close to commercialization. The Smart Energy Matrix system, developed by Beacon Power, is a 100 kW-scale flywheel energy storage system and a prototype for Beacon’s planned 20-mW commercial system.
“The application of new energy storage technologies is a high priority as California upgrades its electricity grid system. The Energy Commission is pleased at the results of Beacon’s testing and the potential for use of this technology in California,” says state energy commissioner John Geesman. “California has made a significant commitment to deploy renewable energy, placing greater demands on the state’s electric grid. Technologies such as Beacon’s flywheel-based energy storage system provide attractive options to address these emerging issues.”
Beacon Power’s flywheel energy storage system acts as a kinetic or mechanical battery, storing electricity during low-demand periods and releasing it during high-demand periods, a capability seen as critical to the integration of electricity from renewable resources because wind- and solar-based systems lack the consistent, reliable supply that oil- and gas-based systems provide. Beacon’s lightweight carbon and E-glass/epoxy flywheel rim can turn at speeds as high as 22,500 rpm, an important statistic because rim speed has a direct relationship to the amount of energy that can be stored. The current 6 kW model is 124cm/49 inches in height with a 69-cm/27-inch diameter and weighs 753 kg/1,660 lb.
The California Energy Commission contracted with Beacon Power in 2005 to develop and install a system to demonstrate the potential benefits of using flywheel energy storage for frequency regulation of power grids. The system became operational in 2005 and completed a series of performance tests and technical assessments prior to a six-month field trial phase that concluded in January 2007.