IEEE Delaware Bay Section Announces a New Program Series for 2008-2009: 
Our Future Power = Energy Over Time
Emerging Technologies in the Electrical Power Sector


Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Flywheel Technology – First in the Series
                   Grid Frequency Regulation and Primary Load Balancing 
                   Using Flywheel Technology
Speaker: Matthew L. Lazarewicz (Beacon Power Corporation)

Beacon Power is located in Tyngsboro, Mass, and is the last successful IPO. The company employs 60 people, and has invested $160 million over the last 10 years. The process chain is Grid->Rectifier->Inverter->Flywheel->Inverter->Grid. The mass for the flywheel is a composite material which has a Mach 2 velocity. The mass runs in vacuum, and magnetic bearings are used when the mass is up to speed. Normal bearings are used during startup and shutdown. The flywheel technology is positioned to be a way to instantly take on and shed load, and therefore allow the main generators to see a constant demand and maintain frequency. Results showed that frequency could be maintained to a steady 60Hz in a few second interval. This contrasts to the present situation where frequency varies a few cycles at any instant, and is controlled to vary to average out at 60Hz over a few hours timespan. The flywheel modules are 85% efficient, and most of the loss is electronic conversion of power from DC to the proper voltage AC. 

The flywheel products are made for earth bound and space applications. The differences in design are higher rpm for space, with resulting lighter mass required; 22,500 rpm for earth and 40,000 rpm for space. The earth model uses a 650 pound mass versus a 105 pound mass for space. 

This business plan for this technology originally was targeted to power backup for fiber optic. However, the fiber optics market tanked at just that time. Automobile power was also looked at, but it was found that if an auto crashed and the flywheel rotation was instantly stopped it would rip free of the auto; this was an application killer. Eventually, frequency regulation of power generator systems was targeted. At the present, the large power generators cannot quickly change output, and the demand curve does change second by second. The result is that the frequency changes. Add to this the fact that generators of the future are expected to be of the renewable type, such as wind and solar. These types can provide a fast fluctuating power supply. This is an enormous headache for power delivery, which must match load and maintain frequency. The flywheel can ramp up to full power in 4 seconds, and provide power for 15 minutes. A typical proposed “flywheel farm” would deliver 20 Megawatts and would consist of 200 flywheel modules. Price for such a farm is estimated to be $20 million for the flywheel modules (including inverters) and $5 million for the land, structures, etc. The business plan is to sell “regulation” and the first sales from a Beacon Power farm are just now occurring. A calculation of income is $50/MegaWatt Hour of regulation X 8000 hours per year X 20 MegaWatt Hours= $8 Million. Plants have been justified in New York state and California. The JPM area (Jersey/Pennsylvania/Maryland) is considering a plant. 

Another factor is the way energy suppliers price energy. They have to respond to “demand spikes”, which raises the cost of delivery. Flywheels could eliminate this concern and reduce the cost of delivery.