Groovy new battery could change the way energy is stored

A type of battery created by Ford Motor Co. in the 1960s for use in electric cars could help utilities around the world. Sodium-sulfur batteries provide efficient energy storage, and could reduce the need for new transmission lines, substations, and power plants. The new generation of room-sized, $2.5 million batteries has been in limited use in Japan since the 1990s, and is getting a test run in the U.S.: American Electric Power installed one in West Virginia, and a group of utilities on Long Island, N.Y., will try one this summer. “If you’ve got these batteries distributed in the neighborhood, you have, in a sense, lots of little power plants,” says Stow Walker of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. Because the batteries can be a source of backup power, they reduce the chances of blackouts, proponents say, and could make an irregular source like wind energy more practical. “We’d like to see storage ubiquitous,” says Imre Gyuk of the U.S. Department of Energy. “Stick it any place you can stick it.”