Beacon connects flywheel system to California wind farm

Composites-intensive flywheel systems provide frequency regulation to store and discharge electricity from wind energy system.

Beacon Power Corp. (Tyngsboro, Mass.) announced on March 12 that it has shipped, installed and successfully connected a Smart Energy 25 (Gen 4) flywheel energy storage system at a wind farm in Tehachapi, Calif. The system is part of a wind power/flywheel demonstration project for the California Energy Commission. The flywheel systems make significant use of carbon-fiber and glass-fiber composites.

The primary goal of the project is to demonstrate that advanced control technology with energy storage can help expand the delivery of wind energy by effectively increasing the capacity of constrained transmission facilities in the area. Tehachapi is a high-potential wind resource area where, according to a report from the nonprofit California Independent System Operator (ISO) organization, up to 4,200 MW of wind power may be added in the coming years.

"Successfully integrating renewable energy onto the grid is one of California's top energy priorities. As California builds the infrastructure to achieve 33 percent renewable energy resources by 2020, this research will be important in operating the transmission grid with more renewables in the future," said Energy Commissioner Jeffrey Byron.

"In collaboration with the Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program, California ISO and electrical utility PG&E, Beacon Power completed a successful research project and field demonstration on the value of energy storage for maintaining reliability on the grid. It helped us better understand the communications and system control issues associated with integrating energy storage onto California's electrical grid," said Byron.

"This is the first Gen 4 flywheel that we've shipped, installed and operated outside of Beacon's facility, and it went very smoothly," said Bill Capp, Beacon president and CEO. "It's also the first of our systems intended to show how energy storage can help optimize the output of a wind farm. We're pleased with the continuing good relationship we have with the California Energy Commission and the California ISO as they address the challenges of deploying intermittent renewable energy resources."

The project will incorporate "intelligent agent" controls and Beacon's flywheel energy storage technology to demonstrate how to enable delivery of as much wind-generated electricity as possible, without exceeding the limits of the locally constrained transmission system. Energy storage and intelligent agent control technology have been identified as key elements of the Smart Grid, a U.S. Department of Energy (DoE)-funded and industry-supported initiative to modernize the country's electrical transmission systems and make possible more efficient delivery of power, along with a more flexible, robust and reliable grid.

Under the scope of this DoE project, the Smart Energy 25 flywheel will normally provide frequency regulation. However, during times when the local subtransmission line becomes constrained due to lack of reactive power or thermal overload, intelligent agents will override the regulation function and direct the flywheel to take action that, in a full-scale commercial system, would help alleviate the constraint. Once the constraint is resolved, the system will return to its primary function of performing frequency regulation. In this way the project will provide proof of concept for the method by which flywheel energy storage can deliver additional value to a grid operator beyond its main function of frequency regulation.

In addition to the California Energy Commission, which is funding the project, and Alternative Energy Systems Consulting (AESC, Carlsbad, Calif.), the prime contractor, other leading stakeholders include the California ISO and Southern California Edison.