Applied Technology: Vycon Flywheel Systems

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When used in conjunction with a UPS system (see Figure 2), flywheels provide uninterrupted dc ride-through power and voltage stabilization during brief utility power disruptions and brownout situations, Most backup generators require six to 10 seconds to come on-line and to connect with the UPS via the automatic transfer switch. Some flywheel units can provide up to 300kW of instant ride-through power and voltage stabilization for over 20 seconds (or other combinations of power and time) - more than enough time for the vast majority of electrical disturbances. Flywheel units can be paralleled for additional power capacity, run-time and/or redundancy.

Figure 2. Flywheel with UPS

Figure 2. Flywheel with UPS

Return on investment

When comparing the life cycle cost of batteries to flywheels (Figure 3), it's clear which technology has a longer, sustainable cost savings over the life of the technology. What most engineers have discovered is that the flywheel has been favored over batteries due the cost savings in three to four years. However, it is important to know that the purchasing decision is not necessarily an either-or option since the flywheel can be used with or without batteries.

Figure 3. Relative lifecycle costs of flywheels versus batteries. Click to enlarge.

Figure 3. Relative lifecycle costs of flywheels versus batteries. Click to enlarge.

When used with batteries, known as battery hardening, the flywheel is the first line of defense against damaging power glitches because it absorbs all short-duration discharges - saving the batteries for prolonged power outages. As a result, the flywheel reduces the number and frequency of discharges, which shorten battery life. Because UPS batteries are the weakest link in the power-continuity scheme, flywheels paralleled with batteries give engineers peace of mind that their batteries are safeguarded against premature aging and unexpected failures. When the flywheel is used just with the UPS and no batteries, the system will provide instant power to the connected load exactly as it would do with a battery string. If the power event lasts long enough to be considered a hard outage - rather than just a transient outage - the flywheel will gracefully hand-off to the facility's' engine-generator.

Another strategic advantage to flywheels is that they can operate in harsh environments with no requirement for cooling. Also, today's flywheels have very high uptime or availability due to their extremely infrequent maintenance needs. Occupying very little space, front access to the flywheel further eliminates space issues and opens up installation site flexibility in support of future operational expansions and rearrangements.

The flywheel gives broadcast engineers a more reliable and cleaner choice in protecting critical operations - increasing transmission reliability and the bottom line.

McKeraghan is vice president of Vycon, Cerritos, CA.

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