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Using Flywheels to Meet Peak Power Grid Demands

Roblimo posted more than 2 years ago | from the our-squirrels-run-extra-hard-to-spin-our-flywheels dept.

Power 325

hackertourist writes "A novel type of electricity storage was recently added to the New York power grid. The unit, supplied by Beacon Power, uses flywheels to store energy. This system is intended to replace gas turbines in supplying short-term peaks in power demand (also known as frequency regulation). It can supply up to 20 MW, using 200 flywheels." If you can't afford a 200-flywheel system, you can always get a racetrack-ready Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid, which has a single energy-storage flywheel that can give you a 160 HP burst of power when you need a little extra oomph.

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325 comments

and if you use maglev bearings (0)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309362)

and suck the air out of the housing, the stored energy lasts forever!

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (1)

SpiralSpirit (874918) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309376)

actually probably only until the heat death of the universe.

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309534)

That is why you use the maglevs, so you don't contribute to the heat death.

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309936)

maglevs aren't loss-free. eddy currents in the conductive elements. you'd have to get it to superconduct as well. then you might have perpetual motion, or as close to it as quantum losses will allow.

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309970)

Based on your comment, I don't think you actually know what Heat death of the universe is.

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309578)

No, after 10^36 years, half the protons should have decayed, so it would fall apart long before that.

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (2, Funny)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309630)

No, it's ok. See, this is for generating electricity. It's mosly the electrons that move around. I don't think we really need the protons that much.

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (1)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309894)

I'm no physicist, but I think AC is right.
The protons are an important component of the matter that the flywheel and the magnets are made of....
I'd assume that the electrons aren't involved much until the (matter making up the) flywheel starts rotating through a magnetic field, thus converting the kinetic motion back into an electrical current.... ?

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (4, Informative)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309392)

From the article: Beacon Power's spinning flywheels, which are made of carbon fiber and levitated in a vacuum by magnets, absorb energy from the grid and discharge 1 megawatt for as much as 15 minutes

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309640)

Is this similar to Formula F1 KERS I believe it stands for Kinetic Energy Recovery System? Something than runs from the drive train somewhere I could research it and not ask dumb questions.. >:-D

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (1)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309792)

IINAE, but no. KERS recovers energy from the braking of the cars, and then lets you re-use that energy to gain an extra 80bhp for sections of the lap. In the 2009 season, Williams tried to use a flywheel system (whereas others, notably ferrari, mclaren etc) made use of batteries for storage. In 2010 The teams agreed not to use KERS, and Williams then sold their flywheel system to Porsche for use in one of their road cars (GT3 I think?). This year, no team in F1 is using a flywheel system - they are all battery based. In effect, you can think of a flywheel as nothing more than a battery of sorts (except it stores electrical energy as kinetic motion). KERS is more than a battery - it is the energy recovery system (located in the braking system), the battery (or flywheel, although no one is using one this year), and the electric motor used to deliver the extra 80bhp.

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (2)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309822)

Although having just said all of that, I guess the answer is they are actually very similar in principle yes ;)

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309890)

As described by robthebloke - It's a component in some KERS systems but not all.

The basics of KERS are known in the general auto industry as regenerative braking. It's a fairly common thing and is one of the largest benefits of hybrid vehicles. It's why hybrid vehicles are often matched in highway mileage by some traditional vehicles, but they crush traditional vehicles in city mileage (primarily because they don't take that mileage hit from stop-and-go driving, which wastes a lot of energy heating the brakes in traditional vehicles.

Most hybrid systems take the approach of using the energy storage system to permit a lower-power engine to be used in a vehicle without affecting drivability in most situations. This is why hybrid has such bad connotations among gearheads.

The hybrid systems in F1 cars and that Porsche are constructed with a different goal - keep the high-power engine, but augment it with energy storage to improve your lap times on a twisty/turny track that has lots of braking and acceleration. They often call it KERS to avoid the negative connotations of hybrid vehicles with gearheads, even though in reality, it's the exact same approach except with some alterations in the design parameters and goals.

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309444)

these systems aren't even practical without both of those design features. bearings are costly maintenance problems and flywheel velocity is too high to tolerate contact with gases. they have to operate in vacuum with no physical contacts.

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (1, Interesting)

gblackwo (1087063) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309458)

The discs do appear to be parallel to the ground so keep in mind that depending on which way they are spinning and which hemisphere they are in, the Coriolis effect will either help or hurt them.

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309568)

The Coriolis effect is far too small to have any significant impact on these.

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309570)

In much the same way that putting a one-pound weight in your car reduces its fuel economy.

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (4, Informative)

el3mentary (1349033) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309590)

The Coriolis effect is far too small to have any significant impact on flywheels this small, it only really has an effect on large scale systems such as cyclonic storms and even then it's amplified due to the proximity to the equator.

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309626)

The Coriolis effect goes to zero near the equator and is a maximum at the poles, but otherwise the poster is correct.

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309968)

The smaller you make the mechanical losses in the system, the larger the relative contribution of coriolis effects becomes.

But since coriolis effects are static for a given angular momentum, latitude, and attitude, the force on the bearing would be constant so as long as the bearing surfaces are out of contact you're good.

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309702)

The discs do appear to be parallel to the ground so keep in mind that depending on which way they are spinning and which hemisphere they are in, the Coriolis effect will either help or hurt them.

Uhhhg. Depending on the direction of the disks' spin they are slowing or speeding our planet's rotation!

I feel obligated to link you here. [xkcd.com]

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (1)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309782)

Since they start from a stop and will eventually end up stopped, the net effect on the rotation of the earth will be zero.

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (0)

ron_ivi (607351) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309542)

I thought the magnets induce currents which drains (a little) energy.

Re:and if you use maglev bearings (1)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309832)

Yes, there will be dissipative currents in the flywheel itself and the surrounding structure if it is conductive, unless the flywheel is superconducting. You also need a means to input and extract the energy. That could be done through the suspension magnets, or through smaller magnets on the flywheel, and coils on the structure. There will be some losses there as well. Probably more loss than a capacitor bank, but less than a bank of batteries.

:-) but a serious question, what % loss? (2)

fantomas (94850) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309768)

haha, +1 for funny posting :-)

But a serious question for anybody who can help - we know that there's no perfect energy retaining system, there will always be losss through friction etc, what sort of loss might you expect with these fly wheels? Do they return 50%, 80%, other amount back to the grid?

Re::-) but a serious question, what % loss? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309986)

I would bet that losses in the transmission system are bigger than losses in the flywheels, and the more you need the flywheels the less that is.

Cool, energy arbitrage (1)

RalphTheWonderLlama (927434) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309408)

Buy low (spin up the wheels), sell high (discharge the wheel energy)

Re:Cool, energy arbitrage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309498)

That actually sounds awesome. If there was a home version of this so you could buy electricity off-peak and then when in peak hours it would spin up the flywheel instead of pulling from the grid. It would also go hand in hand with solar cells/wind turbines so that excess energy during sunny/windy days could be stored in the flywheel system and then discharged at night/clouds/no wind times.

I would buy one.

Re:Cool, energy arbitrage (1)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309994)

Basement flywheels have been considered for solar or wind energy storage, but as with any energy storage, if the energy is released suddenly in a small volume, you've got a bomb on your hands. You certainly wouldn't want to skimp on maintenance for such a device.

Flywheels used to be used for energy storage on farms before electrification. Often for pumping ground water. The classic farm windmill would be hooked to a gas motor with a flywheel and a pump. The motor had a governor to cut the fuel/air intake and spark if the flywheel was above a specific RPM. In no wind, and no pumping load, the motor might fire every 100 revolutions. If the wind was fast enough the motor might not fire at all. When pumping was needed energy would first be extracted from the flywheel, then the motor would start firing. Pumping moved the water to secondary energy storage (a water tower). Of course, it's all done with electric motors now.

New tech? (2)

Mabbo (1337229) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309418)

My grandfather was a manager with the utilities department for the city of Oshawa, Ontario. He described using this exact technology 60 years ago- a giant wheel maintaining momentum to keep the output predictable despite unpredictable input. Mind you, I don't think he was working on the 20MW range...

Re:New tech? (4, Insightful)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309554)

Flywheels aren't new at all...but there was a lot of NIMBY paranoia about flywheels breaking loose and roaming the countryside. I can see how a giant steel cylinder rolling around with a ton of stored energy might be bad, but fail to see how that would occur when mounted underground in concrete with a vertical axis.

In the case of these things, there seem to be many small ones (less risk if one "escapes") and something tells me that carbon fiber disks that are carefully stabilized and levitated in a vacuum while spinning incredibly fast...would break into a thousand pieces the second they left containment rather than rolling down the street and through someone's house.

Re:New tech? (4, Funny)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309924)

..but there was a lot of NIMBY paranoia about flywheels breaking loose and roaming the countryside.

God, am I the only one who wants to live in a world where this actually happens and you see a bunch of ME's from the power plant with yellow hard hats on sprinting after it yelling "Shit-shit-shit-SHIT! -*crushes car* - SORRY! - shit-shit-shit-shit!"

Re:New tech? (4, Informative)

ron_ivi (607351) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309588)

Also in use in vehicles since the 50's.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyrobus [wikipedia.org]

Rather than carrying an internal combustion engine or batteries, or connecting to overhead powerlines, a gyrobus carries a large flywheel that is spun at up to 3,000 RPM by a "squirrel cage" motor. .... ...
Fully charged, a gyrobus could typically travel as far as 6km on a level route at speeds of up to 50 to 60 km/h, ...
Charging a flywheel took between 30 seconds and 3 minutes;

Sounds nicer than most electric cars.

Re:New tech? (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309646)

That's very different. For instance one way that power fluctuations can be handled in an extremely complete manner is to use a motor-flywheel-generator set in direct connection as a power filter, with attendant losses in efficiency that you can imagine. IIRC at least one chip fab is/was protected in this fashion. This is about using flywheels like batteries.

Re:New tech? (3, Interesting)

plut4rch (1553209) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309658)

The JET tokamak has had a couple of huge flywheels to provide the power to its field coils since the early 1980s, and those are around 400MW peak output. True the pulse only lasts around half a minute or so, but it's still very impressive. Each flywheel has a moment of intertia of something around 14 million kgm^2. This may not even be that relevant to TFA but I thought it might be interesting.

Add to windmills (1)

boristdog (133725) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309448)

I've always thought a flywheel like this at the base of each windmill would be an awesome way to level out wind power fluctuations.

Re:Add to windmills (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36310026)

This is already standard practice. In fact, the entire fucking propeller acts a big flywheel. They are massive and balanced radially.

Re:Add to windmills (1)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 2 years ago | (#36310062)

See my post above. Windmills used to be used in hybrid (wind+gasoline generation, flywheel+gravity storage) designs, back before we all had electricity at home.

novel? (1)

smoothnorman (1670542) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309454)

"A novel type of electricity storage was recently added to the New York power grid ..." Flywheels as primary energy storage devices have been in even the popular literature for several decades http://books.google.com/books?id=kgEAAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA41&lpg=PA41&dq=popular+science+flywheel&source=bl&ots=9-KZjC7q03&sig=PgfEqfglwmcBdVGThAF7U4Vgsos&hl=en&ei=72jmTeanIqrbiALVtuTQCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=popular%20science%20flywheel&f=false/ [google.com] and for capacitor-like mechanical smoothing operation since probably the first reciprocating engines. so let'say "novel for this particular application", (and i'm not so sure of that)

Re:novel? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309582)

They where also used as a suppressor and UPS on mainframes. Some mainframes uses a big electric motor to turn a flywheel that was hooked to a generator to act as a voltage regulator. Very effective for brown outs and spikes. And yea I remember reading about them in PopSci in the 70s right down to the magnetic bearings, carbon fiber, and vacuum chamber. Also some pretty spectacular pictures of failures as well.

capacity (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309482)

20 megawatts peak output? But how many megawatt hours?

Re:capacity (2)

cplusplus (782679) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309530)

5, because they only produce peak output for about 15 minutes.

Re:capacity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309694)

But could it also power something really small for several lifetimes?

Re:capacity (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309778)

No, the technology that they are using requires maintenance power. These are only useful when attached to the grid and being used to ride out surges in demand.

Re:capacity (0)

peragrin (659227) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309560)

about 4 or so.

Full power only lasts for 15 minutes. however that is enough time to bring online a gas generator, or to push through a small spike. This would be useful to stablize small spikes giving you more time to bring online, or leave offline the generators.

Gimbals (3, Interesting)

TomorrowPlusX (571956) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309490)

Dumb question, I suppose. But, given that the earth rotates, and given that the flywheels will have a huge angular momentum, are they gimbaled? The article says they're suspended in a vacuum, levitated on a magnetic field, which is cool. But if they're not gimbaled a huge amount of energy will be wasted fighting precession as the earth rotates.

I assume the people making these things are smart and know their shit. I'm just curious how a problem like this is solved. If not gimbals, what?

Re:Gimbals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309528)

They probably licensed some Apple Magic(TM).

Re:Gimbals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309556)

Dumber question: if one imagines a vast number of these flywheels buffering intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar at enough scale to power the US, will the flywheels slow the rotation of the Earth significantly?

 

Re:Gimbals (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309696)

It would take a heck of a lot of them to slow the rotation of the Earth enough to get back to where we were before the Japan and Chile earthquakes...

Re:Gimbals (3, Insightful)

david.given (6740) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309764)

No --- because the torque you steal from the Earth as you spin them up gets dumped back into the Earth when they spin down again.

Re:Gimbals (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309848)

Dumber question: if one imagines a vast number of these flywheels buffering intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar at enough scale to power the US, will the flywheels slow the rotation of the Earth significantly?

... or speed it up depending on the direction of spin? Alternating directions in different units (turn every other unit upside-down?!) should combat this effect.

Re:Gimbals (1)

bobbuck (675253) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309752)

If that was a factor, wouldn't they just mount them parallel to the earth's axis?

Re:Gimbals (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#36310054)

Nope. Then gravity torque gives you a mess.

They probably didn't mount them perfectly vertically. They probably also dynamically balanced them.

Re:Gimbals (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309876)

But if they're not gimbaled a huge amount of energy will be wasted fighting precession as the earth rotates.

What means this "fighting precession?". As the axis of rotation changes there will be a torque on the axle -- big deal, this simply exchanges angular momentum with the earth. You just need an axle which can withstand that torque, and it ain't much torque.

Alternatives (2)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309496)

Does an obese cat in a giant hamster wheel count as a flywheel? No? What if I just hooked up a DC generator to it and dangled some liver on a stick? How many Watts could I get?

Re:Alternatives (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309926)

Does an obese cat in a giant hamster wheel count as a flywheel? No? What if I just hooked up a DC generator to it and dangled some liver on a stick? How many Watts could I get?

In my experience, 2.21 jigga-watts (depending on the viciousness of the large dog behind the cat).

After reaching an angular velocity of 88mph, you can send the device back in time to double your energy output -- The process yields unlimited Infinite energy (well, except for the limits of the world's production of meow-mix and cat-litter).

Re:Alternatives (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309960)

Does an obese cat in a giant hamster wheel count as a flywheel? No? What if I just hooked up a DC generator to it and dangled some liver on a stick? How many Watts could I get?

One horsepower is about the average sustained power output of a horse (imagine that!). There are always substantial energy conversion losses, and a fat cat is non-optimal compared to a born and bred working horse, so I feel comfortable saying you'll get about 500 watts per horsepower.

Long term power output probably scales as weight, short term probably as surface area. A fat cat probably weighs more than 10 pounds and a hard core work horse probably weighs more than 1000 pounds. So I feel confident that you'll get somewhat less than 1/100th of a horsepower out of a fat cat.

Doing all the estimating in my head, I think it very realistic for a fat cat to sustainably long term generate about 5 watts. Enough to charge an ipod or run a cablemodem or an ethernet switch. A bit weak to run a giant modern laptop, but enough to slowly charge it....

If you could herd a hundred cats, like those crazy cat ladies, you could probably run a nice big screen TV off catpower.

Re:Alternatives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309980)

Only the giant hamster wheel counts as a flywheel. The obese cat's mass doesn't contribute to the energy stored, because the cat isn't spinning.

What's the cost? (4, Interesting)

jamesl (106902) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309508)

Why don't these alternative energy/power storage articles ever include cost comparisons? What do these flywheels cost to buy and operate compared to what they're replacing?

Re:What's the cost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309566)

I have no idea what they cost, but it looks like they're trying to compete with GE gas turbines.

http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20110525-708195.html

I was trying to figure out why GE was running new ads for their gas turbine technology during FX's X-Men rundown this week. I guess this flywheel stuff is why (particularly the part about the purchase by the NY grid).

Re:What's the cost? (0, Offtopic)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309602)

The humans making the decisions don't understand Go. They're not even engineers, so they haven't seen all the numbers. Hell, even engineers look at cost comparisons, but not total impact: they may look at the CO2 output of a particular form of power generation, and the price, and see that it is manageable and cheaper and better; but they don't see that the CO2 output of building the damn thing divided by its useful lifetime is much higher than a heavy polluter coal plant that lasts much longer and is easy as hell to build.

Most people are stuck in the corner, trying to save one thing in isolation, and then wanting to have everything, and still as separate pieces. They do not back off to see the whole, and make exchanges to stay overall ahead. The whole of the board is a mystery to them, and they only jump from section to section, trying to fight small local battles without seeing how they hurt other positions.

Re:What's the cost? (3, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309682)

but they don't see that the CO2 output of building the damn thing divided by its useful lifetime is much higher than a heavy polluter coal plant that lasts much longer and is easy as hell to build.

It's not. Please let us know why you think it is.

Re:What's the cost? (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309870)

It depends on what system you're looking at. Old solar panel technology took a large amount of nasty chemical pollutants to make, and produced a hell of a lot of liquid toxic waste output. I think our solution has been to dump it in the water supply... newer processes are cleaner, though.

It's like buying a fleet of electric or hybrid cars for their "environmental impact," while Toyota won't release statistics on how much energy goes into building one and how much pollution it produces. There's no total lifetime numbers for something as innocuous as CO2, which leads many to speculate that Toyota might keep such things secret because the total CO2 production for an electric hybrid exceeds the total CO2 production for a 25mpg Sedan over its expected lifetime. Less not knowing, and more not caring because the numbers in front of you support your foregone conclusions already.

Re:What's the cost? (3, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309950)

It depends on what system you're looking at. Old solar panel technology took a large amount of nasty chemical pollutants to make, and produced a hell of a lot of liquid toxic waste output. I think our solution has been to dump it in the water supply.

That has nothing to do with co2. All commercially available solar panels have had payback times in co2 terms of less than 50% of their lifetimes.

It's like buying a fleet of electric or hybrid cars for their "environmental impact," while Toyota won't release statistics on how much energy goes into building one and how much pollution it produces. There's no total lifetime numbers for something as innocuous as CO2, which leads many to speculate that Toyota might keep such things secret because the total CO2 production for an electric hybrid exceeds the total CO2 production for a 25mpg Sedan over its expected lifetime. Less not knowing, and more not caring because the numbers in front of you support your foregone conclusions already.

You can figure out how much energy goes into making one, look at the price. A 25mpg sedan is going to probably cost more than a prius anyway, as it only gets 25mpg for a good reason. That is because it is heavy and made from more material generating more CO2 when it was produced.

A corolla might be better over the lifetime of the car in co2 terms vs a prius, but that 25mpg sedan won't. An electric car in fleet use might be even better, depends on source of that power.

Your talking points suck. Stop moving the goalposts and do some fucking math.

Re:What's the cost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309736)

The game of Go might be a good analogy to systems engineering? Some industries get it (ie, aircraft) and include multi-disciplinary engineers all through a project to look at interactions.

Re:What's the cost? (5, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309734)

They compete with batteries. They are more expensive than crappy dirty ones and cheaper than fancy relatively clean ones. They are made with steel containment vessels and contain a bunch of electromagnets which you and I know as being made of wire. You can check pricing of maglev bearings online. The flywheels are made of carbon fiber so that if they should for some reason contact the housing, which as I recall is about an inch thick steel unit, they shred themselves into cotton candy or confetti or something like that instead of releasing their energy explosively. The various materials they're made of means you can assume they have a fairly high energy cost of production. The units are small enough to be ganged in shipping containers.

Re:What's the cost? (1)

david.given (6740) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309874)

Well, these are energy storage units rather than energy generation units. The electricity is generated elsewhere by cheap baseload generators and these flywheel units store it until it's needed to makeup shortfall by peak load. This gives you enough time to spool up the slow-reacting baseload generators.

What they're replacing is probably gas turbines, which are expensive to run but have a very short reaction time and are generally used to meet peak loads. And gas turbines are generation units, so you can't really compare them directly.

Existing tech for energy storage is stuff like pumped storage ---you use surplus electricity to pump water from a low lake to a high one, and then it flows back through the turbine to generate electricity. I used to live near the Ben Cruachan [wikipedia.org] pumped storage station. It can generate 440MW for 22 hours and can start up in 30 seconds, which is pretty damned impressive. This flywheel installation can generate 20MW for 15 minutes, so it's nowhere near the same league, but is likely to be vastly cheaper and a hell of a lot more portable, not requiring a mountain to install it in.

Flywheel, Flyschmeel: Use Prisoners (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309580)

sitting on their butts behind bars to PUSH wheels.

This will surely deter crime.

Yours Vladivostok [youtube.com] ,
K. Trout, C.I.O.

Very cool, but very not new (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309600)

About a decade ago these guys had or at least were advertising a tiny version of this technology for use as a UPS. It was supposed to be cost-competitive with medium-size units. Unfortunately it turns out that there's more profit in solving the peak demand problem by absorbing base load at night and delivering it during peak demand periods. Since they use maglev bearings, [partially] evacuated chambers, and magnetic induction, the units themselves are not only very efficient but should also have excellent longevity. It looks to me like they are making the chambers out of fairly standard (if sizable) pipe components.

Mod Parent DOWN!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309962)

drinkypoo is a LIAR and a THIEF. Yet again, he trolls. Ignore him.

Flywheel at home (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309654)

I've always thought a flywheel at home would be a great idea. Charge it up when rates are low and use it when rates are highest so save some money on your power bill.

flywheels at a consumer level (1)

jzilla (256016) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309660)

When i was in engineering school a classmate did a presentation on using flywheels at a consumer level. You buy it and put in in your house and it soaks up at offpeak times and delivers during peak times. Using flywheels at the consumer level also has the advantage of using the resource of lines during peak times, as only so much electricity can saftely travel through a line. The biggest challenge to this method is that detail of the power consumption/generation would have to be exposed to the consumer so that these device would understand when to best consume or release energy.

Re: flywheels at a consumer level (1)

yarnosh (2055818) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309854)

I imagine you'd just program the flywheel to follow the pricing. Just tell the flywheel when your power company charges the least and it will adapt to your usage and maximize savings. That should have the effect of using power at optimal times in terms of the grid load.

20 MW-What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309666)

Is that 20 MW peak output, 20 MW days, 20 MW hours, 20 MW seconds?

I'm going to hold off being impressed until I know how much energy (you know, those weird little things they call Joules) these are storing. 20 MW (or rather MVA) is still in the realm of diesel generating sets and if this is supposed to be the debut of some brand new peak-demand busting tech then in pretty underwhelmed. Grid scale storage is a pretty important issue if we are going to continue investing in fickle renewables such as PV and wind.

New flywheel design (2)

haruchai (17472) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309730)

Jeff Veltri of Temporal Power has a flywheel design he claims can deliver twice the power at half the cost of the Beacon designs. Ten of his prototypes will be used for smoothing wind turbine power production. But his design is based on permanent magnets so I wonder how that'll fare which the rising cost of rare earth minerals.

http://www.thestar.com/business/article/978578--hamilton-a-new-spin-on-energy-storage [thestar.com]

Re:New flywheel design (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309872)

But his design is based on permanent magnets so I wonder how that'll fare which the rising cost of rare earth minerals.

It seems like if you are capable of controlling the entire design you can use pretty big magnets, so you can therefore use cheap ones.

Slashdot - yesterday's articles are today's news (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309744)

Just in case anyone was wondering about the age [distributedenergy.com] of this "news", I found an article from 2010 but I'm sure there's older. Ahh the internet, endlessly recycling news until it becomes new again.

Popular Mechanics (0)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309770)

I remember reading about these over the past decades. The number 1 thing stopping them (besides cost) was safety. Apparently, they've figured out the right materials to prevent micro-fractures from building up and exploding these things like small nuclear bombs. I wonder if they are safe enough for home use, yet. Anyone have a link to a safety analysis and the rate at which they need replaced versus the time between fractures?

Flywheels (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309774)

There was a company manufacturing these sort of devices maybe 10 or 15 years ago. The advantage to a flywheel battery is that you can charge or discharge it at a high rate, and they last 20 years or more with little maintenance, versus about 5 years for most chemical batteries. The disadvantage is that they lose about 1% of their energy per hour, if not supplied with power to top it off, even with maglev bearings and in a vacuum. Still it seems like a good idea to even out solar/wind, and ease the use of natural gas plants. Peak load power is expensive power.

Power should cost more during day time. (3, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309798)

At present only industrial customers pay different rates for their electricity based on the time of day. Domestic electricity prices are constant all day. There is no incentive for anyone to defer their power consumption to off-peak hours, or to invest in any technology to smoothen out their power consumption curve. If we pay one price for the day time electricity and get a deep discount for the night time electricity, these fly wheel storage devices can be used to soak up energy at night and use it during the day. Since most of the day time power consumption is air conditioning, we could simply make ice/chill water at night and use it to cool the home during the day.

Re:Power should cost more during day time. (3, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309868)

Domestic electricity prices are constant all day.

Maybe where you live, but not where I live. I bet if you requested the time based pricing you could get it. When I was growing up we only did laundry and dishes after 8pm. Cut the electric bill by a huge amount.

Re:Power should cost more during day time. (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309880)

I don't know where you live, but we've had double meters (night and day) for as long as I can remember.

Re:Power should cost more during day time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36309932)

I have a time of use plan where my off-peak rate is roughly 5x lower than on-peak. We consciously shift as much usage as we can to the off-peak hours and it helps us avoid a few hundred $ per year for our electricity.

I'm not an industrial customer.

Re:Power should cost more during day time. (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309982)

Wrong - many areas charge residents more during peak periods. California is especially known for this, and it's one of the reasons (lots of sun being the other) why residential solar power is fairly popular there. Peak solar generation times happen to coincide with peak electricity cost times.

Re:Power should cost more during day time. (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 2 years ago | (#36310010)

Heck, why artificially set prices at all? Someday everyone will be recharging their electric cars at night and companies will beg us to use electricity during the day instead.

Now that meters are getting high-tech enough, we should just have a spot market for power and buy/sell into that market any time of the day or night.

15 mega watts of energy storage (1)

Script Cat (832717) | more than 2 years ago | (#36309882)

Seriously why use stupid units in these stories. The system provides 15 mega watts for 15 minuits. Thats 3.75 Mw-h. according to the wikipedia an average person uses 11,400 W (average not peak).
So this can power 40 people for 8 hours.
Now you'll have to excuse me I have a meeting in 2.8 hogsheads. After that I have to goto the store and buy a meter of milk. And my furnace is a 15000BTU model and it's used them all up.

Re:15 mega watts of energy storage (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#36310050)

Sure, not mentioning its storage capacity is an omission, but quoting the maximum power output is hardly irrelevant or stupid.

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