Beacon works with Chugach Electric on hybrid flywheel/battery storage system

Beacon Power LLC announced May 26 that it has entered into an agreement with Chugach Electric Association to supply flywheels for an innovative hybrid energy storage project in Anchorage, Alaska.

The project will combine proven and durable high-power flywheel energy storage technology from Beacon Power, with an existing lower duty-cycle conventional electrochemical battery for use during periods when additional energy is needed. This advanced hybrid resource combines the benefits of fast-responding flywheels with longer-duration batteries to help manage and stabilize variable output from renewable energy sources. The systems will be installed at a substation next to Chugach headquarters and are expected to go into operation later in 2015.

Beacon and Chugach will test the 320-kW system to determine if the new storage solution can be scaled up in the future to enable increasing amounts of renewables to interconnect with remote system utilities along the Alaska Railbelt. Alaska’s Railbelt region, named for areas reached by rail, stretches north from the Kenai Peninsula more than 500 miles to Fairbanks and is home to 70% of Alaska’s population.

Paul Risse, Chugach’s Senior Vice President for Power Supply, said: “We’re very pleased to be moving forward with Beacon on this important project to help improve Alaska’s grid and enable more efficient utilization of renewables. Beacon’s flywheel systems have a solid reputation in terms of operating performance, cyclic durability and demanding environments. This hybrid flywheel/battery project is an opportunity to bring proven next-generation technologies that have strong track records elsewhere to our state – and combine them in an innovative way.”

“The project will also demonstrate a hybrid control system that will allow Chugach to maximize future multi-stage energy storage system performance and minimize life cycle costs,” said Dustin Highers, Director of Power Supply Technical Services at Chugach and the system’s project manager.

Chugach has received funding support for this new project from the Alaska Energy Authority‘s Emerging Energy Technology Fund. 

This will be the third utility installation of Beacon’s modular 160-kW flywheel energy storage system, which is the next generation of the 100-kW flywheels in commercial operation at 20-MW plants in New York and Pennsylvania. The new system is a stand-alone configuration of a flywheel with the integrated power electronics and flywheel controls in a single, separate enclosure and is fully scalable from one flywheel to hundreds.

“Our new modular system is ideal for hybrid energy storage opportunities, enabling our flywheels to work together with different storage technologies to realize the widest range of power system benefits,” said Barry Brits, Beacon Power President and CEO. “Feedback from our plant operations and customers has informed our product development efforts, resulting in a flexible power control module for ease of system integration and reduction of capital and operating costs.”

Beacon’s flywheel energy storage system provides very rapid first-stage response to any grid instabilities, e.g., frequency and ramp rate control. The battery system delivers a second-stage response if more energy is needed over a longer duration, which helps reduce resource curtailment and improve predictability of output. Combining the two technologies has the added benefit of significantly increasing battery life by reducing the charge-discharge duty of the batteries, while high-cycle flywheels handle the majority of the workload and manage rapid-response cycling. 

Beacon is also collaborating on this project with Spirae LLC of Fort Collins, Colorado, which is providing the overall control system to manage output of both flywheels and batteries, as well as manage each system’s state-of-charge. Spirae will utilize its proven Wave control architecture and hardware developed for demanding microgrid applications.

Chugach is the largest electric utility in Alaska and is engaged in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity to directly serve retail customers in the Anchorage and upper Kenai Peninsula.

Beacon Power is a pioneer and global leader in the design, development and commercial deployment of flywheel-based energy storage systems. Beacon offers proven solutions at the utility-scale for power grid efficiency, frequency regulation, grid security, renewable power integration and other ancillary services. Beacon’s headquarters and manufacturing facility are in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, north of Boston.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.