LA Metro VYCON WESS system saving energy

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Red Line’s Wayside Energy Storage Substation (WESS) Project at the Westlake/MacArthur Park Subway station is producing a 20% savings in energy consumption, according to supplier VYCON, which designs and manufactures environmentally friendly, high-speed kinetic energy storage systems.

VYCON’S environmentally friendly REGEN flywheel technology, installed in April 2024, so far has netted annual savings of 541 megawatt hours (MWh), “enough to provide power to 100 average California homes, based on the data obtained so far,” the company says.

The energy storage project, a culmination of nearly five years of research, development, production, and installation, is funded by a grant provided by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) under the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) Program, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. The scope of the project is to demonstrate how VYCON’s regenerative technology stores energy generated by braking trains and efficiently redistributes that energy to the traction power system, “vastly improving energy usage that otherwise would be wasted in the form of heat,” VYCON noted. “The operational two-megawatt base WESS utilizes our high-speed flywheel technology as a means of recycling energy on the Metro rail system. The system is expansion-ready for up to six megawatts, through seamless additions of flywheel units in the future.”

Acting as a mechanical battery, the VYCON REGEN system stores kinetic energy in the form of a rotating mass and is designed for high power, short-discharge applications. Patented technology used within this system includes a high-speed motor/generator, contact-free magnetic bearings used to levitate and sustain the rotor during operation, and a control system that provides system information and performance. These technologies enable the VYCON system to charge and discharge at high rates for hundreds of thousands of cycles, “making it an ideal energy storage solution for electric rail applications,” the company said. “Each time a train brakes and stops at a station, it has the capacity to regenerate energy, but often a great part of this capacity goes unused due to the lack of an energy storage device in the system. The result is wasted energy, typically converted into heat and dissipated into the air. Transit authorities such as L.A. Metro are looking at solutions for capturing braking energy from electric powered trains because this regenerated power results in greater energy and operational efficiencies.”

According to Frank Castro, Metro’s Project Manager for the WESS Project, “Metro is pleased with the operational performance and energy savings realized by this high-tech, first-of-its-kind project. We believe it will contribute to a greener environment and achieve our sustainability goals, at the same time reducing our utility bills.”

“We are pleased with our REGEN’s efficient operation and energy savings to date for Metro,” said VYCON President Frank DeLattre. “This is a milestone energy project, and we look forward to duplicating these energy savings and operational efficiencies at Metro and other electric rail transportation agencies worldwide. There is a need for energy storage to lower energy consumption, lower creation of greenhouse gases, and the opportunity to lower operating and capital costs for substation infrastructure.”

Metro and VYCON officials recently met with representatives from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to review the results of the agency’s first-of-a-kind use of flywheel technology to recycle power generated from railcars.

“With a 20-year operational life, our REGEN flywheel offers additional benefits for rail applications, including reducing peak power demand and providing voltage support with the potential for reducing the number of substations in a new or expanded rail line,” said VYCON Director of Engineering Octavio Solis. “We look forward to the project’s next steps, including continually monitoring WESS performance and energy savings until summer of 2015 and then providing a final report with results of the one-year continuous operation.”

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