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Beacon Power closes $43 million DOE loan for 20MW flywheel energy storage plant

Beacon Power closes $43 million DOE loan for 20MW flywheel energy storage plant

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Beacon Power has landed a $43 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Dept. of Energy for a new 20-megawatt flywheel energy storage plant.

American energy storage firm Beacon Power on Monday announced that it has closed on a $43 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy for a new 20-megawatt flywheel energy storage plant.

The Tyngsboro, Mass.-based company says the plant, which is based in Stephentown, N.Y., is the first of its kind in the world.

The plant will showcase the company's Smart Energy Matrix flywheel systems, which are used to regulate and stabilize the power grid as intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are brought into the mix.

The process is called "frequency regulation," and in essence serves as the equalizer between supply and demand: when there's a surplus of electricity, the flywheel systems absorb it from the grid and store it as kinetic energy; when there's a deficit, the flywheels add electricity back to the grid using their energy reserves.

The company calls them power grid "shock absorbers," and they don't emit carbon emissions like current regulation methods do.

It goes without saying, then, that this kind of regulation is expected to grow as more intermittent renewable energy sources are used.

At 20 megawatts, the company says the flywheel plant will provide about 10 percent of New York's total frequency regulation capacity on a typical day. (What a "typical day" in the New York area is, I don't know.)

The $43 million loan comes from the U.S. Treasury's Federal Financing Bank. It covers 62.5 percent of the plant's estimated $69 million price tag, $55 million of which is for equipment and facility costs.

Beacon Power says 4 megawatts are expected to come online -- and earn revenue, I should note -- by the end of 2010. All 20 megawatts are scheduled to come online and generate revenue by the end of the first quarter of 2011.

The company is also developing two more 20-megawatt flywheel-based energy storage plants.

The first is within the PJM Interconnection grid operating region (North America's largest electric transmission system, serving Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia) and is partially funded by a $24 million smart grid stimulus grant from the DOE in Nov. 2009.

The other is in Glenville, New York, pending a second loan guarantee from the DOE.

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure