Beacon Power Breaks Ground on 20MW Flywheel Energy Storage Plant

Beacon Power Corporation (Nasdaq: BCON) last week held an event marking the formal groundbreaking for the start of construction on the nation’s first full-scale 20-megawatt (MW) flywheel frequency regulation plant.

Initial construction work on the 20 MW plant will start this month, including site clearing, adding drainage and fencing, and some landscaping. Full construction is expected to begin in late 1Q10, and be completed in 16 to 18 months.

Frequency regulation is an essential grid service that is performed by maintaining a tight balance between electricity supply and demand. Beacon’s 20-MW plant has been designed to provide frequency regulation services by absorbing electricity from the grid when there is too much, and storing it as kinetic energy in a matrix of flywheel systems. When there is not enough power to meet demand, the flywheels inject energy back into the grid, thus helping to maintain proper electricity frequency (60 cycles/second).

According to a 2008 study by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a DOE research institution, 1 MW of fast-responding flywheel-based regulation can be expected to provide the equivalent of 2 MW of conventional slow-responding regulation, based on a mix of conventional regulation resources like those used in California. In areas with less hydropower-based regulation than California, the comparative advantage of flywheels may be even greater.

Thanks to their ability to recycle electricity efficiently and act as "shock absorbers" to the grid, Beacon’s flywheel plants will also help support the integration of greater amounts of renewable (but intermittent) wind and solar power resources. Unlike conventional fossil fuel-powered generators that provide frequency regulation, flywheel plants will not consume any fuel, nor will they directly produce CO2 greenhouse gas emissions or other air pollutants, such as NOX or SO2.

Beacon Power Corporation designs, develops and is taking steps to commercialize advanced products and services to support stable, reliable and efficient electricity grid operation. The Company’s primary business strategy is to commercialize its patented flywheel energy storage technology to perform frequency regulation services on the grid.

In July, Beacon Power was offered a $43 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy to support construction of the 20-MW facility.

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