johnson city

Rafa Puerta / via Flickr

Managing the power grid is a balancing act. As we flip on our coffee makers and turn on hairdryers, the grid is reacting, breathing harder, to keep up with our demand. A facility in upstate New York is using battery power to try to make walking that tight rope more efficient.

The energy experiment is playing out behind the smokestacks of an old brick coal power plant in Johnson City, N.Y. on a small, snowy lot.

The storage facility is contained in a row of shipping containers elevated on stilts. John Zahurancik, who's overseeing deployment of the project for AES Energy Storage says the trailers contain racks of batteries - about 80,000 of them.

So far this story is pretty easy to understand: the power grid needs to stay balanced to meet our energy needs, batteries store power.  Well here's where we get to the physics lesson. 

Courtesy George F. Johnson Memorial Library

Yesterday evening, All Things Considered aired a driveway moment-worthy story, profiling one of upstate New York's early welfare capitalists. George F. Johnson earned that title by offering Endicott-Johnson shoe manufacturer workers generous benefits, including subsidized housing and free shoes.