With the rise in renewable energy sources comes a corresponding need for reliable power storage devices–all that solar power gathered during the day needs to still be available at night, after all. Enter Beacon Power’s $69 million flywheel storage plant. The facility harnesses 200 flywheels that store power from natural gas plants as kinetic energy and release it in short bursts as needed.
The plant, currently under construction in Stephentown, New York, will be the first ever large-scale storage facility to replace batteries with flywheels. And it has just been given the seal of approval by the Department of Energy, which this week offered up a $43 million loan guarantee to Beacon.
Flywheel technology has been used before, albeit on a much smaller scale. Past installations have harnessed up to one megawatt of power, but Beacon’s plant will be able to store 20 megawatts, or enough to supply 10% of New York’s frequency-regulation needs on any given day.
The technology has a number of advantages over conventional energy storage devices, according to Green Car Congress. It can ramp up and down ten times faster than conventional fossil fuel generators, all while cutting CO2 emissions by up to 82% compared to gas, pumped hydroelectric, and coal plants. And flywheel storage is both cheaper over the long term and more reliable than battery storage.
This is the third clean energy loan guarantee finalized by the DOE. The other two–$535 million in financing for solar panel manufacturer Solyndra and a $117 million loan guarantee for Hawaii’s 30 megawatt Kahuku Wind Power project–are far more conventional. If the Beacon project succeeds, we hope to see even more large scale investments from the DOE in proven but underutilized technologies.