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Beacon Connects Flywheel System to California Wind Farm

Beacon Power Corporation has shipped, installed and connected a Smart Energy 25 (Gen 4) flywheel energy storage system at a wind farm in Tehachapi, California. The system is part of a wind power/flywheel demonstration project being carried out for the California Energy Commission.

The primary goal of the project is to demonstrate that advanced control technology with energy storage can help expand the delivery of wind energy by effectively increasing the capacity of constrained transmission facilities in the area. Tehachapi, California, is a high-potential wind resource area where, according to a report from the California ISO, up to 4,200 megawatts of wind power may be added in the coming years.

“Successfully integrating renewable energy onto the grid is one of California’s top energy priorities. As California builds the infrastructure to achieve 33 percent renewable energy resources by 2020, this research will be important in operating the transmission grid with more renewables in the future,” said Energy Commissioner Jeffrey Byron. “In collaboration with the Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program, California ISO, and PG&E, Beacon Power completed a successful research project and field demonstration on the value of energy storage for maintaining reliability on the grid. It helped us better understand the communications and system control issues associated with integrating energy storage onto California’s electrical grid."

The project will incorporate “intelligent agent” controls and Beacon’s flywheel energy storage technology to demonstrate how to enable as much wind-generated electricity to be delivered as possible without exceeding the limits of the locally constrained transmission system. Energy storage and intelligent agent control technology have been identified as key elements of the smart grid, a U.S. DOE-funded and industry-supported initiative to modernize the country’s electrical transmission systems.

“This is the first Gen 4 flywheel that we’ve shipped, installed and operated outside of Beacon’s facility, and it went very smoothly,” said Bill Capp, Beacon president and CEO. “It’s also the first of our systems intended to show how energy storage can help optimize the output of a wind farm. We’re pleased with the continuing good relationship we have with the California Energy Commission and the California ISO as they address the challenges of deploying intermittent renewable energy resources.”

For this project, the Smart Energy 25 flywheel will normally provide frequency regulation. However, during times when the local sub-transmission line becomes constrained due to lack of reactive power or thermal overload, intelligent agents will override the regulation function and direct the flywheel to take action that in a full-scale commercial system would help alleviate the constraint.

Once the constraint is resolved, the system will return to its primary function of performing frequency regulation. In this way the project will provide proof of concept of how flywheel energy storage can deliver additional value to a grid operator beyond its main function of frequency regulation.

In addition to the California Energy Commission, which is funding the project, and Alternative Energy Systems Consulting (AESC), the prime contractor, other leading stakeholders include the California Independent System Operator (ISO) and Southern California Edison.

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