California's Alameda Municipal Power is partnering with Amber Kinetics in a demonstration project that will use potential breakthrough technology to extend the duration and efficiency of flywheels in energy storage applications.
"Amber has an existing facility and they're going to be expanding it," Nicolas Procos, Alameda Municipal Power’s general manager, said Thursday. "It's going to be about 100 kW. They're going to get started right away and have it up and running soon."
Alameda Municipal Power's board has just approved an interconnection agreement with Amber, based in Union City, California.
Amber says that unlike lithium-ion energy storage systems, its Kinetic Energy Storage System (KESS) has no degradation or wear-and-tear over time. Moreover, the steel storage system is completely recyclable after its 30-year design life.
Alameda Municipal Power’s partnership with Amber allows for the demonstration of the energy storage system on an active distribution system. Alameda has a peak load of about 55 MW.
For years, Alameda Municipal Power has partnered with the Northern California Power Agency for its generation. Alameda Municipal Power owns portions of geothermal and hydro power projects, as well as several landfill gas contracts and a wind energy contract.
"We have so much renewable energy ... we're in somewhat of a unique position," Procos said. The public power utility anticipates being "carbon neutral" in 2020.
Currently, Alameda Municipal Power is evaluating potential locations for a solar power facility. If the Amber project works out, the public power utility conceivably could pair the flywheel technology with the solar project.
According to Procos, Amber approached Alameda Municipal Power about its possible interest in the project.
"We're always looking for opportunities," he said. "They have another facility in King County (California) and a pilot project in Hawaii."
He added: "It's a very compelling story for us. We evaluated the technology and had a lot of conversations with them. They're a very willing and eager partner."
Ed Chiao, Amber's co-founder and CEO, said the utility has been a "visionary partner to work with" at the Alameda Municipal Power test site. "As we have commercialized our second-generation flywheel, AMP [Alameda Municipal Power] has gone the extra mile to facilitate our testing in a safe and well-regulated manner on their grid. We could not have picked a better utility to partner with on advancing our energy storage technology."
Amber began shipping its pre-commercial flywheels in September 2016 and commercial units in 2017. So far, the company says, its fleet of demonstration units has accumulated more than 40,000 hours of run time domestically and abroad.