Amber Kinetics, Inc., the developer and manufacturer of game-changing, four-hour discharge duration flywheel energy storage technology, was named the winner of pv magazine’s Array Changing Technologies Award 2017. The award has been given annually since 2015 to recognize excellence in innovation for solar components and PV power plant development and operation. (Click to download full article 2017_pv_magazine_awards_full)

Amber Kinetics was named winner of pv magazine’s Array Changing Technologies Award 2017.

“It is a great honor to be recognized by the most reputable, leading solar industry publication,” said Ed Chiao, co-founder and CEO. “The recognition is a great validation to the technology we are commercializing. I’m especially proud for our scientists, engineers and the rest of the Amber Kinetics team who have devoted themselves to launching our safe, sustainable flywheel energy storage solution. Being recognized by pv magazine similarly affirms our customers’ decisions to be cutting edge early adopters of our technology, which greatly enables the next big wave of PV solar deployments.”

Amber Kinetics was first selected as one of 12 finalists from among approximately 30 entrants from North America and Europe. A final meeting of the jury confirmed the company had been chosen the overall winner.

According to jury member Rebecca Hott, contractor to the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, “Amber Kinetics M32 flywheel is an innovative energy storage technology that aims to extend the discharge duration from minutes to four hours. Its projected long lifespan, unlimited daily cycling, and void of hazardous chemicals are all desired attributes for wide adoption. I see flywheels, together with electro-chemical and other types of energy storage systems, as key enablers of solar PV integration by providing the necessary flexibility to the electric grid.”

The integration of renewables is an obvious need for a growing number of utilities. Only through massive deployment of storage will states like Hawaii, California and Arizona be able to effectively avoid negative locational marginal pricing when solar assets are peaking, and create pricing signals adequate to encourage the continued investment in utility-scale solar. Renewables plus reliable, cost-effective storage like Amber Kinetics’ four-hour duration flywheels enables utilities to smooth out the variability of solar generation and meet their evening peak demand. The same benefit accrues to utilities throughout the world that already have high penetrations of solar.

According to recent industry research, the future looks bright for storage plus solar, with more than 2,000 megawatt hours to be installed annually by 2021. While utility-scale storage is anticipated to make up the largest sector, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), estimates that as many as 5 million commercial electric customers across the U.S. could cost-effectively reduce their utility bills by using solar plus behind the meter storage. The analysis showed economic activities across the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Southwest, as well as in early adopter states like California and New York.

The economics are equally positive. NREL forecasts solar plus storage will have a higher cost-benefit ratio than standalone PV by 2020 in markets with 15% PV penetration.  A June 2017 report from the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab compared the cost of building new gas fired generation facilities to solar + storage and found the latter to be cost-effective now in deferring new peaker plants. The same study found storage could be used to better utilize the state’s wind energy resources.

Amber Kinetics’ long-duration all-steel flywheels have advantages over battery and conventional peaking resources for demand reduction, energy arbitrage, renewable energy firming, and frequency regulation on a grid- and micro-grid scale. The flywheels incur no capacity degradation, have unlimited daily cycling capability and $0 variable O&M for 24/7 operation. In addition, the flywheel energy storage systems are highly efficient, fully recyclable at end-of-life and carry no hazardous materials risk.

In December, Amber Kinetics will begin shipping its M32 (8 kW / 32 kWh) units to customers around the world; its next generation of more powerful, cost-effective flywheels — the M160 (40kW / 160kWh), will begin testing in the first quarter of 2018.

Headquartered in Union City, CA, Amber Kinetics began shipping pre-commercial flywheels in September 2016. To date, the company’s fleet of demonstration units has accumulated 24,000 hours of run time domestically and abroad.