Beacon Power initiates 20MW New York flywheel plant

22 Jul 2011

North America’s largest flywheel energy storage facility reached full capacity yesterday and its 200 flywheels are now providing commercial frequency regulation services to New York’s electricity grid, with zero emissions and no fuel consumption.

Beacon Power’s 20MW plant, which is based in Stephentown, New York, is currently North America’s largest advanced energy storage facility. All 200 flywheels at the plant are now spinning.

Beacon Power said the plant, which operates continuously, will store and return energy to the grid to provide about 10pc of New York state’s overall frequency regulation needs.

Speaking yesterday, Francis Murray, president and CEO of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), said New York has set the goal of meeting 45pc of its electricity needs by 2015 through a combination of investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

“We know that’s an ambitious target, but Beacon Power’s flywheel plant is exactly the kind of technology investment we need if we’re going to accomplish this important objective,” he said.

Flywheel energy storage operates by accelerating a cylindrical assembly called a rotor (flywheel) to a high speed and maintaining the energy in the system as rotational energy. The energy is converted back by slowing down the flywheel. The flywheel system spins at high speeds to store energy that is instantly available to the grid when needed.

Gaelectric’s plans for the Irish grid

In May, we reported on how Irish wind energy developer Gaelectric had started collaborating with Beacon Power to progress its flywheel energy storage technology. As part of the agreement, Gaelectric Energy Storage, the storage technology subsidiary of Gaelectric, was to start identifying opportunities for flywheel technology on the Irish grid, as well as developing flywheel-based projects.

Beacon Power and Gaelectric have also jointly funded a study of the Irish electricity grid using various scenarios of future wind penetration.

Photo: View of Beacon Power’s 20MW flywheel storage plant in Stephentown, New York, which yesterday reached full capacity to supply clean energy to New York state’s electricity grid

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic