The heat wave that pushed temperatures into the 90s this week had millions of people cranking up their air conditioners, straining the limits of utility companies across the Northeast. Some areas suffered through power interruptions that lasted for hours.
A company called Eos Energy Storage is working on new technology that could offer a solution in the near future. It's developed a battery system that can store large amounts of energy so it's available when utilities need it most, during periods of peak demand.
Eos president Steve Hellman tells CBS News, it works by storing up energy during periods of lesser demand, such as nighttime hours, and then pumping it into the system when it's actually needed. "In the daytime when it gets extremely hot and everybody is flicking on their air conditioners," Hellman says, "the battery discharges and provides that extra energy."
He says it's a much cheaper alternative than building more power plants to provide extra energy capacity. "It will save money for the consumer every day, 365 days a year," he says, not just during a heat wave.
Utilities already use some large-scale batteries for energy storage, but up until now, the technology has been too expensive to use as widely as they would like. Eos uses a relatively inexpensive element, zinc, in its battery, and projects it will be able to provide energy for less than half the cost of other battery systems.
Now the company is gearing up to put its Eos Aurora grid-scale battery system to its biggest test yet. It recently announced will launch a pilot program with Con Edison in New York City in 2014, using the battery to distribute stored energy.