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Fresno Project To Store Solar Electricity Using Flywheel

Jan 14, 2016

The Fresno City Council has approved a land lease that will make Fresno the site of an innovative new energy project. Kerry Klein reports from downtown.

California has one of the most aggressive renewable energy policies in the country: by 2030, renewables like solar and wind must produce half of all our energy. But, to meet that goal, we’ll have to get a whole lot better at energy storage.

That’s where Fresno comes in. A company called Amber Kinetics just won a bid to lease a plot of land near a power station in the southwest. There, they promise to store more energy for longer periods of time than almost any other facility in the state. How will they do it? Using a technology called flywheels. Bill Barnes of Amber Kinetics says they’ll help Fresno get more renewable energy online.

Barnes: "When you have large amounts of solar power during the day which exceed the capacity of the grid, and right now is wasted, it can be stored in the flywheels until evening."

Flywheels store surplus energy by spinning at high speeds. Then, when the grid needs to produce more, utilities like PG&E can tap back into that kinetic energy to even out their production.

Barnes says flywheels are one of the greenest energy storage technologies out there.

Barnes: "There are no air emissions, there's no noise because these flywheels are in a vacuum container, and there's no visual impact because they're partially buried below the Earth and are landscaped on top."

He estimates the facility will be up and running by early 2020.