Energy Companies Seeking Electricity Storage
Technology developers are shuttling between caves and mountaintops to build a market for utilities set to attract $25 billion in annual investment within a decade.
To store surplus electricity from power plants, they're trying to squeeze air into salt mines and run empty trains up hills, testing how to harness the energy released when the air bursts out and the cars roll back down. Trials are under way at companies from Germany's Siemens AG and RWE AG to General Electric Co. and a startup backed by billionaire Bill Gates, which is experimenting with the momentum of ski lifts.
"Electricity is the only commodity in the world that isn't really stored," said Prescott Logan, who heads GE's storage business in Schenectady, N.Y., where last month it opened a $100 million plant to make batteries for utilities. When storage becomes cheap and massive, "the impact will be huge."
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