Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Groundbreaking Energy Storage Technology Moves MBTA To Explore Options With Helix Power Corporation

New Data Sharing Agreement to Produce Demonstration of Energy Saving System to Reduce Carbon Emissions & Save Operating Dollars

Boston- The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has turned toward an emerging clean energy storage system developed by Helix Power Corporation of Somerville to capture energy used to slow subway trains and make that energy immediately available for acceleration thus yielding electricity savings and greenhouse gas reductions.

Under terms of a new agreement between the T and Helix Power, the developers of a high-tech high-powered flywheel energy storage system, the company will receive data of train movements in order to design a system to meet the transportation authority’s needs while reducing carbon emissions.

The Helix flywheel system temporarily stores energy used to slow subway trains and makes it immediately transferable to accelerate them, a major high-power demand that rapid transit operators must continuously contend with. Those familiar with the technology say that Helix could simultaneously cut the MBTA’s greenhouse gas emissions, its overall energy consumption, and reduce the T’s peak demand on the power grid.

“Helix Power is introducing an advanced energy storage technology using high power short duration flywheels as an extreme energy management tool.” said Matthew Lazarewicz Founder and President of Helix Power. “We are delighted to sign an agreement with the MBTA to demonstrate our technology in their service environment for the largest single electric consumer in the Commonwealth. Implementation on the MBTA has the potential to manage high energy fluctuations, save energy being wasted and reduce greenhouse gases at an accelerated rate.”

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester) and Representative Keiko Orrall (R- Lakeville) have helped facilitate the introduction of the technology to policy leaders in Washington D.C. and in Massachusetts. They call the arrangement between the MBTA and Helix a major opportunity for the transit authority, the state’s largest consumer of electricity, to reduce energy consumption and operating costs while reducing per passenger mile greenhouse gas emissions.

“Controlling carbon emissions from the transportation sector has been challenging but this agreement represents an opportunity for the MBTA to accomplish major goals like reducing energy consumption, dampening pressure on fares and dedicating savings to capital equipment improvements that can help the entire system,” said Tarr. “I am happy to help raise awareness about the application of this technology from a company with Massachusetts ties.”

The Helix flywheel has attracted the attention of governments, researchers, and industry leaders including the U.S. Department of Transportation and recent funding from backers including the U.S. Department of Energy, Sandia National Laboratories, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

“Flywheel technology with its ultrafast response is ideally suited to act as a buffer between the electric grid and urban rail, reducing energy consumption and thus bringing down greenhouse gas emissions” said Dr. Imre Gyuk, Director of Energy Storage Research for the U.S. Department of Energy. Sandia National Laboratory has awarded a $500,000 grant from the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity to Helix in support of these technology developments. That grant will leverage matching funding as part of an additional $2.5 million from the New York State Research and Development Authority.

"I'm excited to help Massachusetts be showcased as a global leader in emerging technology. This partnership provides a great opportunity to explore ways of saving energy costs in transportation," said Representative Keiko Orrall (R- Lakeville).

Able to deliver a full discharge of 1 megawatt of energy in 90 seconds, the Helix system would also be charged by a subway train’s braking in the same amount of time. By efficiently capturing energy from an existing use, braking to approach a station platform, the system can yield electricity savings of 30 to 50% while also minimizing short-term peak load spikes on equipment and substations.

Emerging from the Greentown Labs in Somerville, the largest ‘cleantech’ incubator in the Northeast, Helix Power founders are collaborating with state and federal governments to utilize their technology which can use 100% of its rated power without loss of performance over time – unlike batteries and electrical capacitors.

The three year agreement between the T and Helix is intended to produce a full-scale test incorporating input from the MBTA regarding operating specifications and a full performance analysis that could reinvent the way metro trains roll.