The Christian Science Monitor recently ran a story on battery technology and the electric power grid. I’m not sure that there is much new there for anyone who is already paying attention to energy storage issues in bulk power, but the story provides a decent overview.
AN ASIDE: I’m am always mildly amused when the February 26, 2008 wind power drop-off in Texas is cited as an example of the reliability challenges associated with wind power, at least when the stories omit any mention of the nuclear power drop-off and blackout in Florida on the same day.
As the CSM story mentions, over a three-hour period “wind power output [fell] by 1,400 megawatts” in Texas. (More background here.) In Florida that same day, an early afternoon fire at a FPL substation led to transmission problems, leading several power plants to shut down (including two nuclear reactors and a number of natural gas plants). All told, Florida lost about 2,500-megawatts of incoming electricity in a few moments (not 1,400 megawatts in a few hours).
It is much more expensive to build and operate a power system capable of withstanding the Florida-kind of problem as compared to the Texas-wind problem, which is why Texas was able to avoid a blackout with the equivalent of a few phone calls, while in Florida schools, stores, and other businesses closed early, traffic backed up due to traffic signals losing power, and perhaps 2 million people were without power for several hours.