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NYSERDA trials long-duration zinc battery storage at community apartments in New York City

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The capacity of Zinc8’s zinc-air battery cell can be increased simply by scaling up the zinc storage tank. Image: Zinc8.

A 100kW/1.5MWh zinc-based battery energy storage system (BESS) will be installed at a 32-building housing development in Queens, New York, supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). 

The project is aimed at demonstrating the economics and reliability of the technology, developed and manufactured by Vancouver, Canada-headquartered startup Zinc8. The battery system, which can store and discharge over 15 hours, will be combined with an onsite CHP system which is being built at the site, Fresh Meadows Apartments. 

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The behind-the-meter, long-duration energy storage project won out in a call for proposals of clean energy demonstrations hosted by NYSERDA. NYSERDA is contributing about half a million dollars towards the project’s cost of about US$2 million, as reported by Energy-Storage.news in March 2020 when the award was announced.

A deployment agreement was signed around that time between Zinc8 and the CHP plant’s developer, Digital Energy Corp. William Cristafaro, Digital Energy Corp’s CEO, described the zinc battery storage as “very promising for integration” into his company’s existing and developing customer base of different distributed energy resources (DERs) and microgrids.

Zinc8 said last week that a host site agreement has now been signed with Fresh Meadows Community Apartments owned by real estate company Cammeby Realty Corp, paving the way for the project to go ahead. 

Zinc8’s zinc-air battery cells store energy in the form of zinc particles, which are combined with oxygen to deliver power. When the system charges, zinc particles are regenerated, returning oxygen to the surrounding air. The company’s modular BESS systems are designed for power output range of 20kW up to 50MW, and can store energy for eight hours to a hundred hours. 

The company claims its technology is low-cost, and that as energy storage capacity is determined by the size of the zinc storage tank, much like a vanadium flow battery, the systems are scalable to higher capacities simply by increasing the size of the tanks. 

NYSERDA, a public-benefit corporation, advances innovation in areas including energy efficiency and renewable energy integration. Another of the State of New York’s energy sector public-benefit corporations, New York Power Authority (NYPA), is also trialling Zinc8’s technology, deploying a 100kW/1MWh system. 

In a 2020 Guest Blog for this site, Zinc8 CEO Ron MacDonald wrote that zinc is earth-abundant, and has a significant supply chain within North America. Recyclable, and with a high level of fire safety, zinc batteries could offer the lowest cost of energy storage in long-duration applications, MacDonald argued. 

Digital Energy Corp’s agreement with Zinc8 includes working together to identify similar projects that may be suitable in New York.  

New York City has in place some of the most stringent fire regulations in the world, largely due to its densely populated urban environment. This has made it a challenge to deploy lithium-ion battery energy storage systems at buildings, leading to trials like Zinc8’s with NYSERDA and NYPA, as well as a current NYPA trial deployment of a lithium-ion battery storage system utilising a novel cell and pack architecture, designed and made by startup Cadenza Innovation, aiming to eliminate propagation of cell-to-cell thermal runaway.

New York’s government has also repeatedly stated the important role energy storage — including long-duration energy storage — is expected to play in helping the state achieve its goal of generating 70% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and achieve net zero carbon status by 2050.

Nickel-zinc batteries heading for ‘sustainable data center’ in Wyoming

Another, similarly-named company, ZincFive, also said last week that its products will be deployed in a demonstration and trial project in the US. 

ZincFive said that its nickel-zinc (NiZn) battery solutions, which are designed for use in data centres, will be installed at a facility being built in Wyoming, by Wyoming Hyperscale Black Box, which specialises in ‘sustainable’ data centres. 

Wyoming Hyperscale aims to commission its first development site in Aspen, Wyoming, later this year. It will be coupled to geothermal power, while ZincFive’s BC Series UPS Battery Cabinets will provide the hyperscale facility’s back up power source. 

ZincFive’s BC Series cabinets come in a range of 37kWh to 39kWh capacity. The company did not say how many will be installed at the Wyoming data centre, but did reveal they will be used to support and manage 30MW of critical IT loads.

ZincFive claims its batteries are low maintenance, carry the same power with approximately half the weight of lead-acid, have no danger of thermal runaway and are third-party verified to have a lower climate impact from creation to end use than lead-acid or lithium-ion. 

The company’s cabinets are also compatible with existing UPS inverters, it claimed. 

According to trade group Zinc Battery Initiative, rechargeable zinc batteries could be a solution to provide scalable multi-day energy storage, have an average life of nearly 20 years leading to lower maintenance and replacement costs as well as high reliability and have a wide operating temperature range between -30C to 75C. They also do not require continuous monitoring for cell balance and safety while charging. 

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