Amber Kinetics: new model next year

Amber Kinetics co-founder and chief scientist Dr Seth Sanders being featured on CBS. Pic: Amber Kinetics.

Amber Kinetics co-founder and chief scientist Dr Seth Sanders being featured on CBS. Pic: Amber Kinetics.

By Mike Stone

Amber Kinetics is choosing to put all its commercial energy behind product development and sales.

Like a select group of others in the energy storage space, the company has been getting out of projects to concentrate on its core business.

And the change in focus seems to be working out well for the Union City, California company.

Managing director of development, Bill Barnes, said bookings were looking good for late 2017 and 2018, with orders coming from across Africa, Canada, Australia, the Philippines and China.

“We have booked deposits for delivery, installation and commissioning of units to projects ranging in size between one and 16 units,” he said. 

Much larger sales

The company has one deposit and another pending for 50 units each from distributor partners, he said, and emphasised that there were “much larger sales behind each of these orders.”

Specifically, the orders are for Amber Kinetics’ M32 units. The 8kW/32kWh M83 is Amber Kinetics’ current best-seller, but the company isn’t resting on its technological laurels.

And its growing product focus means it can bring new, improved flywheel storage to market soon.

“Our technology roadmap anticipates commercial availability of our more powerful M160 in late 2018 or early 2019,” Barnes revealed.

The M160 will pack 40kW and 160kWh of capacity. “Target pricing for early units is in the USD$300 to $325 per kilowatt-hour range, decreasing considerably as we scale up,” Barnes explained. 

Awarded-winning storage

In addition to commercial interest, Amber Kinetics garnered recognition from the solar industry when it was named the winner of pv magazine’s Array Changing Technologies Award 2017 at the beginning of September.

Jury member Rebecca Hott, a contractor to the US Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, saw Amber Kinetics having a bright future serving solar.

“Amber Kinetics’ M32 flywheel is an innovative energy storage technology that aims to extend the discharge duration from minutes to four hours,” she said in a press release.

“Its projected long lifespan, unlimited daily cycling and void of hazardous chemicals are all desired attributes for wide adoption.”

One of the features that makes Amber Kinetics’ flywheels stand out is their ability to keep spinning longer, by keeping so-called coasting losses to a minimum. As a result, they can offer up to four hours of storage. 

Longer storage times, lower cost

This is unlike most other flywheels, which are can only guarantee short bursts of concentrated power and so are less suitable to long-duration storage applications and specialise instead in frequency regulation and other services.

Another advantage is the build material. Amber Kinetics flywheels are principally steel, which is considerably cheaper than the carbon fibre used by other manufacturers.

Those qualities are a long way from making even Amber Kinetics’ flywheel products mainstream energy storage resources.

But there have been several instances this year where flywheels have been used as part of grid-scale energy storage projects, usually providing ancillary services.

A combined battery-flywheel hybrid system was announced during the summer, to provide frequency response services to the UK and Irish grids. 

Other storage projects for flywheels

It will be the UK’s first ever hybrid system, and the largest in Europe, once up and running, providing 1MW of power and 20kWh of storage.

The €4m project, coordinated by Schwungrad Energie, involves Adaptive Balancing Power providing the flywheel technology and Freqcon designing and building multi-source power converters to connect the flywheels to the grid.

Another European project that will soon be putting flywheel storage through its paces is the EDF Concept Grid site in Moret-sur-Loing near Paris.

There a Stornetic DuraStor device will serve within a joint project on advanced smart grid storage solutions.

The project, said French utility EDF, will assess the performance of flywheel energy storage technology facing the demands of a modern grid environment and special customer requirements.

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