Vycon Demos Clean Energy Storage Systems for Hospitals

Old-fashioned flywheel power systems are providing hospital data centers with clean, green backup power using a centuries-old technology.

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-Not too many power-supply companies are offering old-fashioned kinetic-energy, flywheel-based UPS (uninterruptible power supply) options in their product lines. After all, because flywheel technology goes back to ancient times, it's frankly not very sexy.
Nonetheless, flywheel power sources have a good story: They're battery-free; they're 96 to 97 percent efficient (only 3 to 4 percent of power going to the apparatus); they offer continuous voltage regulation; they are very reliable; and they are true "green IT," needing little power from the wall.
A flywheel is a mechanical device with a significant moment of inertia used as a storage device for rotational energy. Flywheels can be used to produce very high power pulses for experiments, where drawing the power from the public network would produce unacceptable spikes.
A small motor can accelerate the flywheel between the pulses. Recently, flywheels have become the subject of extensive research as power storage devices for uses in vehicles and power plants.
Schneider Electric's APC, Active Power and Vycon Energy are three of the largest manufacturers making these for data centers. Of these, Vycon Energy made some news March 11 by announcing that it has been specializing its flywheel units for health care-system power backup.
Vycon, which earlier this week demonstrated its wares here at Data Center World 2010, is at PDC 2010 in San Diego through March 17. At this international conference on health facility planning, design and construction, Vycon is demonstrating how its clean energy backup power systems protect mission-critical hospital data during power outages.
Vycon's specificity is another example of a trend about how storage of all kinds-in this case, it's energy storage-is becoming more specialized. For example, both Iron Mountain Digital and Symantec recently came out with specific cloud-storage services just for health services.
Vycon's flywheel UPSes, already deployed by a number of hospitals around the world, are designed to be complementary to standard UPSes by replacing space- and maintenance-intensive batteries, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars annually to maintain.
Over a 20-year lifespan, Vycon said, cost savings from a flywheel versus a 5-minute valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) battery bank can range from $100,000 to $200,000 per flywheel deployed.
"Our clean energy storage systems provide health care facilities with a green and highly energy-efficient solution that not only protects vital data, but also helps facilities decrease energy costs and reduce their carbon footprint," said Vycon President Frank DeLattre. "Moreover, our flywheel systems eliminate the need for costly cooling and maintenance and take up a fraction of the space compared to banks of backup batteries."
Power disturbances cost U.S. industry as much as $188 billion annually in lost data, material and productivity, according to the Electrical Power Research Institute (EPRI). To minimize these losses, annual spending on backup power systems exceeds $5 billion worldwide, according to industry analysts at the Darnell Group.
For more information on flywheel power technology, go here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...