Gaelectric to team up with Beacon Power on flywheel technology

13 May 2011

Wind energy developer Gaelectric is to collaborate with Beacon Power to progress its expertise in flywheel energy storage technology.

Beacon Power designs, develops and commercialises advanced products and services to support stable, reliable and efficient electricity grid operation.

As part of the agreement, Gaelectric Energy Storage, the storage technology subsidiary of Gaelectric, a wind energy developer in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Montana in the US, will identify opportunities for flywheel technology on the Irish grid and develop flywheel-based projects.

The two companies have already jointly funded an extensive study of the Irish grid under various scenarios of future wind penetration. According to the study, deploying fast-response flywheel technology on a very large scale would improve grid stability, reduce wind curtailment, and improve the efficiency of the entire Irish grid, resulting in significant monetary and CO2 emissions savings.

Brendan McGrath Gaelectric

Brendan McGrath, CEO, Gaelectric

Speaking today, Gaelectric Group’s CEO Brendan McGrath said the collaboration will Beacon will give Gaelectric more control over its ability to develop wind projects using flywheel technology, complementing the company’s compressed air energy storage (CAES) offering.

“As we learned more about the energy balancing issues related to greater wind deployment in Ireland, the UK and Montana, we saw the need to add a storage solution that can accommodate the seconds-to-minutes timeframe. Beacon’s flywheel technology is extremely effective in providing this service, and their energy storage systems can be deployed incrementally as wind assets are deployed.”

Wind energy projects in Montana

In Montana, Gaelectric is currently developing up to 3,000MW of wind, with its first project of 430MW expected to be commissioned in 2014-2015. The company says it will be closely following the progress and performance of the 1MW flywheel system that Beacon is installing there this year for NorthWestern Energy, the State utility.

IWEA response

Commenting on today’s announcement, Dr Michael Walsh, CEO of the Irish Wind Energy Association, said the collaboration between Beacon Power and Gaelectric highlights an innovative approach for the integration of wind.

“Enabling technologies such as Beacon’s flywheel system will make a valuable contribution and complement the benefits of high wind penetration into electricity systems.”

World’s first grid-scale, flywheel-based energy storage plant

Beacon Power itself is currently one of the partners involved in the development of the world’s first grid-scale, flywheel-based energy storage plant in Stephentown, New York, supplying its flywheels to the project.

When Stephentown is completed, the 20 MW plant will operate continuously, and is expected to store and return energy to the grid to provide circa 10pc of New York’s overall frequency regulation needs.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic