Friday, March 23, 2001

Battery tested that may thwart blackouts

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — American Electric Power is testing a new battery that it says could help ease power shortages like the recent ones in California.

        “It's really a nice solution for having to deal with rolling blackouts, for example,” said Dave Nichols, manager at AEP's Dolan Technology Center where the battery was demonstrated Thursday.

        The high-density sodium-sulfur battery can store large amounts of electrical energy that can be used at times of peak demand, he said. Ideally, the battery would be charged at times of low demand.

        The battery could make it easier to stabilize demand, which fluctuates considerably between day and night, and might reduce reduce customers' electric bills.

        The 12.5-kilowatt battery being tested at the center is big enough to power a handful of homes. The tests are part of a joint effort with Tokyo Power Co. and NGK Insulators Ltd., which developed the battery in the 1980s. It could be ready for use in two to three years.

        Storing electrical energy is not a new concept and has been done with other kinds of technology.

        What makes this battery different is that it uses about a third of the space of a conventional lead-acid battery, can be charged in eight hours and it can be discharged over a similar period or stored indefinitely if the temperature is kept at 600 degrees.

        The size of the battery would depend on how it is being used. Mr. Nichols said they would likely be kept at substations or other places where energy is distributed to an area or a business.

        “It makes it feasible to utilize electrical energy storage on a much larger scale than in the past,” he said.


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