While it doesn’t get nearly as much attention as alternative energy sources like solar or wind power, flywheel storage technology is definitely worth looking into. A kinetic energy-based technology that stems from the same elementary movement that potters and spinners have been using for centuries, the power storage tech will soon be harnessed at the world’s first grid-scale flywheel-based energy storage plant in New York. The $69 million plant will go online later this year and will be a force to be reckoned with – Beacon Power, the company behind the operation, estimates that it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 82 per cent over its 20-year life and provide about 10 per cent of the state’s energy frequency regulation needs.
The flywheel system will use fast-rotating rims to store excess energy from the grid as kinetic energy that can be tapped into when demand rises or power from other sources is unavailable. Composed of a carbon-fiber composite material, the rims spin on magnetic bearings in a vacuum in order to minimize energy loss due to friction. Flywheel-based energy regulation is both cleaner and faster than traditional methods – it can fluctuate 10 times more quickly to match increasing or decreasing energy demands. The New York plant will be able to flex to changing power demands in under four seconds and can output continuous maximum power for 15 minutes, according to Beacon.
The new plant will be located in Stephentown, New York, and once completed it is anticipated to be able to provide up to 20 megawatts of energy storage capacity for the region’s power grid. The good news is that the first four of those 20 megawatts are set to come online by the end of this year. Of the innovative technology, Bill Capp, president and CEO of Beacon Power says, “We believe that there is no better way to provide efficient, grid-scale frequency regulation than our flywheel systems.”