Flywheels Keep the Grid in Tune

Spinning masses face off against big batteries in the half-billion-dollar market for grid stability

4 min read
Flywheels Keep the Grid in Tune


Photo: Beacon Power Corp.
Revved Up: A flywheel generator is lowered for high-speed tests.

If you think twirling the mass of a family car hundreds of times a second is an unlikely way to keep power grids humming at perfect pitch, think again. Flywheel developer Beacon Power Corp., based in Tyngsboro, Mass., is already making money that way in Stephentown, N.Y., where it operates more than 160 1150-kilogram magnetically levitated flywheel motor-generators. These machines continuously accelerate and decelerate to balance electrical supply and demand and thus keep New York state's grid tuned to 60 hertz.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

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