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Zinc-Air Battery Makes Long-Term Energy Storage Much Cheaper
Image credits: Zinc8. Editing by Andrea Steffen.
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Zinc-Air Battery Makes Long-Term Energy Storage Much Cheaper

The zinc-air hybrid flow battery, developed by the Canadian company Zinc8, is a new type of battery coming onto the market that can store several days worth of energy, is up to five times cheaper than lithium-ion, doesn’t degrade, and can’t possibly explode. Zinc8 is confident its technology could rattle the entire energy-storage market – replacing the need for transmission grid upgrades and making solar, and wind farms baseload.

Chief executive Ron MacDonald told Recharge:

Our market is eight hours [of storage] and above. And the reason is that as you increase your storage capacity — the overall cost of the system continues to go down very significantly.

Zinc-air is cheaper than lithium-ion because the system’s storage capacity can be made more prominent by increasing the size of the storage tank. With lithium-ion, you can’t do that. In other words, if you want 8 hours’ worth of energy, you’ll need two lithium-ion batteries but only one Zinc-air battery.

And since the potassium electrolyte is exceptionally stable, doesn’t get hot, and can’t ignite, some of the additional safety requirements of lithium-ion plants are unnecessary for zinc-air facilities, further reducing system costs.

How The Zinc-Air Hybrid Flow Battery Works

  • It uses electricity from the grid to split the chemical zincate (ZnOH4) into zinc, oxygen, and water.
  • The charged zinc particles generated can store electricity for weeks.
  • When electricity is needed, the zinc is combined with oxygen and water (producing zincate) to release the stored energy.

The battery is made up of three parts:

  1. The “zinc regenerator” where the splitting occurs and the charged zinc particles are generated.
  2. The storage tank where the charged zinc is held in a potassium hydroxide (KOH) electrolyte.
  3. The power stack (a kind of fuel cell) where the zinc is turned back into zincate, and the charge gets sent back to the grid.
Zinc-Air Battery Makes Long-Term Energy Storage Much Cheaper
Credit: Zinc8

More Of A Baldies

Zinc8’s batteries are being compared to lithium-ion batteries, but the company’s market competition isn’t precisely electrochemical batteries. Its zinc-batteries would be more suitably placed in the intermittent energy storage (Baldies) technologies category.

Baldies include build-anywhere long-duration systems like liquid-air and hot-rock thermal storage – both of which can also store days’ worth of energy. An excellent example of the latter is Siemens Gamesa’s hot-rock thermal system at the commercial-scale pilot project in Hamburg.

Real-World Applications

Zinc8 won the New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) Innovation Challenge and is now collaborating on building a 100kW/1MWh (i.e., ten-hour) pilot project for a commercial NYPA customer in New York by 2022. NYPA is the largest state utility in the US. This project will showcase its battery’s long-lasting ability and serve as validation for future projects with the company.

A couple of other commercial pilot projects Zinc8 is working on include a 100kW/1.5MWh (15-hour) zinc-air system in Brooklyn for clean-energy developer Digital Energy and a 40kW installment in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.

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