Zinc-air flow batteries target Australia market with minimum eight hours storage

The Canadian company behind a zinc-air flow battery energy storage solution targeting both off-grid and on-grid network solutions has signed an agreement to explore opportunities for the technology in Australia.

The battery company, called Zinc8 Energy Solutions, said on Monday it had entered an in-principle agreement with Queensland-based engineering firm SmartConsult to explore joint-venture projects in Australia.

The companies said the agreement would focus on deploying Zinc8’s zinc-air energy storage systems at aquatic centres, remote mines and behind-the-meter applications using SmartConsult’s industry knowledge and contacts.

The agreement would also kick off a joint examination of potential opportunities for the battery technology in microgrids and utility-scale transmission and distribution projects, a statement said.

Zinc8’s modular system currently offers energy storage anywhere between 20kW and 50MW with a minimum of 8 hours of storage duration or higher – which is presumably where the “8” part of the company’s name comes from.

According to the website, the patented technology works by storing energy in the form of zinc particles, similar in size to grains of sand. When the system is delivering power, the zinc particles combine with oxygen drawn from the surrounding air. When the system is recharging, zinc particles are regenerated, and oxygen is returned to the air.

Since the energy storage capacity of the system is determined by the size of the zinc storage tank, it’s billed as a very cost-effective and scalable alternative to the fixed power/energy ratio of the lithium ion battery. In fact Zinc8 claims an installation cost in the ball-park of $45/kWh, with a lifespan of about 25 years.

In comments to RenewEconomy SmartConsult said it was drawn to the technology by its 65% round-trip efficiency, and the fact that the balance of the energy was released as heat, giving businesses with any sort of demand for heat “full bang for their battery buck.”

“These are slow burn batteries. Perfect for heat pumps, pumps, fans, air con, where you need a long continuous supply of electricity,” said SmartConsult’s renewable energy consultant, Derek Harbison.

“The system can be expanded easily by simply adding more zinc … to increase storage. This is a known technology that is now a lot cheaper to install and we expect a lot of enquiries from the mining sector,” he said.

SmartConsult CEO Luke Hardy said the Zinc8 solution was expected to be ideal for the company’s large-scale industrial customers.

“We are very excited to collaborate with Zinc8 in Australia, we have been looking for a battery solution that does not have the inherent issues that surround existing battery types with uncertain cycle life and limited longevity,” Hardy said.

For Zinc8, the deal with SmartConsult follows a run of milestone achievements and international market moves, including a similar agreement in principle to explore opportunities for the batteries in India, with Vijai Electricals.

In the US, the company has had various successes in the state of New York. In January, the New York Power Authority selected Zinc8’s battery system from a list of more than 60 competitors for a commercial or industrial demonstration facility.

In March, Digital Energy Corp chose Zinc8 to install a 100kW/1.5MWh storage system at a Brooklyn combined heat and power plant. It has since set up a subsidiary in the US to meet ongoing demand.

Australia is one of the world’s leading countries on moving to complete elimination of greenhouse gas producing power generation, through the rapid integration of renewables and energy storage,” said Ron Macdonald, president and CEO of Zinc8 Energy Solutions.

“SmartConsult, as an Australian industry leader in renewable energy projects, is the ideal company to work with to deploy Zinc8’s long duration storage system to this rapidly developing market,” he said.

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