Beacon Power Corp.—maker of a much-watched flywheel system that is designed to regulate grids using efficient energy storage—last week garnered the New York State Public Service Commission’s (PSC’s) approval for a proposed 20-MW flywheel frequency regulation plant in Stephentown, N.Y., as well as for the project’s overall financing.

The Stephentown energy storage facility would be Beacon’s first 20-MW plant. The company already operates a 2-MW plant near its Tyngsboro, Mass., headquarters.

The PSC’s granted Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity allows the company to build and operate the facility. Beacon Power will now have to obtain all other necessary federal, state, and local permits and submit final plans and drawings to the state Department of Public Service for review.

Beacon Power subsidiary Stephentown Regulation plans to site, install, and operate an interconnected system of energy storage devices utilizing flywheels, control equipment and substation switchgear, to convert transmission-level electrical energy to kinetic rotary energy for short-term storage and regulation. The facilities will be installed at a 7-acre site that adjoins electric transmission facilities owned and operated by National Grid, and electric distribution facilities owned and operated by New York State Electric and Gas.

The PSC said in a statement last week that it had decided the company qualified for “lightened regulation” because it would sell its regulation services in the competitive wholesale market. It also said that the company’s proposed financing did not appear contrary to the public interest because it was approved up to a maximum amount of $69.3 million in federal loans, private investments, inter-company financing, and private offerings.

Beacon Power is awaiting approval of a $43 million guaranteed loan through the Department of Energy for the project. The DOE in July conditionally approved the loan request. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority issued a $2 million grant for the project.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recognizes the rate and reliability benefits of grid-interconnected energy storage facilities, recently opening the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) market to energy storage facilities. NYISO now also provides a tariff for Limited Energy Storage Resources (LESRs), including short-term energy storage facilities such as flywheels, batteries, and vehicle-to-grid technologies.

LESRs can provide regulation service by rapidly charging or discharging in response to regulation control signals. By providing near-instantaneous response to control signals, the proposed facilities will enable efforts of the NYISO to meet appropriate system control performance criteria as wind and other intermittent generation penetration increases in response to the state renewable portfolio standard, the PSC said.

“We are excited to be able to support the development of new, state-of-the-art facilities that will help us improve our use of electricity,” said Commission Chairman Garry Brown. “The facility’s flywheels are designed to store excess energy when the generated power supply exceeds demand and conversely deliver it back to the grid when demand exceeds supply. This project will help fully utilize electricity generated from renewable power sources, which is often generated at times when demand is low.”

Sources: Beacon Power, NYPSC