What's the Latest Development?

A new modification on an old piece of energy technology, called a flywheel, will enable utility companies to store large amounts of energy efficiently until it is needed on the electricity grid. "Take an advanced carbon fiber rim, lift it on magnets in a vacuum, spin it at very high speeds and you can store electrical energy," says Beacon Power, creator of the flywheel. "While the principles of flywheels have been known for a long time and smaller-scale facilities built, the completion of Beacon Power's 20-megawatt plant on the New York grid is a milestone in energy storage."

What's the Big Idea?

Increasing demand for energy, especially in the third world, is putting pressure on our current source of (unsustainable) energy. The search for more efficiency in supplying the public with electricity is inspiring ideas for a smart grid, an electricity network more responsive to demand and supply. A smart grid would tell consumers which hours are the cheapest to consumer electricity and would make the network bidirectional, meaning consumers could supply their own stored electricity back to the grid, perhaps in the form of an electric car battery, for compensation.