$2M grant to help support flywheel-base electricity storage system
By BRIAN NEARING, Staff writer First published in print: Tuesday, May 25, 2010
STEPHENTOWN -- The state is investing $2 million in a flywheel-based electricity storage system designed to help reduce greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
The nation's second system based on flywheel technology, now being built in a former cornfield near routes 22 and 43, should go on line sometime this fall, said Bill Capp, president of Massachusetts-based Beacon Power.
On Monday, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority announced a $2 million grant to support the $50 million plant. Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy used federal stimulus money to support the project with a $43 million loan guarantee.
The plant will house an array of massive flywheels spinning at up to 16,000 revolutions per minute. The flywheels are designed to store excess power from the electrical grid, releasing it as needed to match the ebb and flow of statewide demand for electricity to avoid brownouts and blackouts.
Initially, the plant, located on seven acres off Grange Hall Road, will be connected to the electric grid through a New York State Electric & Gas line. Once the plant reaches its full 20-megawatt capacity as expected in March 2011, it will be connected to a National Grid transmission line.
"Advanced energy-storage technologies like the one Beacon is incorporating into its plant are essential for New York to achieve substantial reductions in our greenhouse gas emissions and energy use," said Francis J. Murray Jr., NYSERDA president and CEO.
Smoothing the electric supply is now done by ramping up fossil-fuel-powered electric plants, which burn coal, oil and natural gas. Emissions from those plants produce carbon dioxide, identified by an international scientific consensus as the cause of global warming.
No additional fossil fuel is needed to produce power at the plant. Instead, 200 flywheels -- each a rotating disk 7 feet tall and 3 feet wide -- will spin, using motors that draw excess energy from the power grid when it is not needed.
When demand for electricity increases, the flywheels -- sealed in a vacuum and floating on magnetic bearings to reduce friction -- can be switched to run generators that return power to the grid.
Because of an almost total lack of friction, the flywheels can spin out power for about a hour, meaning power plants won't have to increase capacity to meet demand.
The plant will prevent the release of up to 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year. That's equal to saving 20,000 barrels of oil, or taking about 2,000 cars off the road.
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