Flywheels For Stable Power

Beacon Power has just announced that their flywheel-based power stabilization system is at 18 Megawatts of stored power and about to hit the target of 20 MW by the end of June.

This is a fantastic concept and I think it will work very well.

The concept is pretty simple.  A lot of generated electricity is wasted by being fed into circuits whose sole function is to turn extra electricity into heat… for no reason other than the electricity isn’t needed (and if anyone remembers the names of these circuits, please remind me).  The reason all this electricity is dumped is that fossil fuel and nuclear plants cannot change from cold to running full blast in anything short of a few days (literally, it can take a nuclear plant 4 days to go from cold to producing electricity).

So operators of these plants run them at low power all the time, even in the dead of night when no one is using any electricity at all.  This is all so that massive surge of electricity that is needed when everyone’s alarms go off in the morning and the coffee makers turn on is ready.

Beacon plans to buy that electricity at pathetically low prices (any income is better than no income, especially when you have to use the fuel anyway right?) and store it in their flywheels.  Then, if there is any hiccup or anything else in the supplied electricity, Beacon’s facility can use those flywheels to provide instant emergency power.  There 20 MW plant can provide power to about 1,000 homes for 20 hours or 20,000,000 homes for an hour.

If this works out well, Beacon plans to provide turnkey installations to power plant operators.  This would be great for all fossil fuel plants, allowing them to store otherwise wasted electricity.  It would also be a huge benefit to wind and solar plants, allowing them to store excess power for wind the sun is behind some clouds or the wind dies down.

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