Canadian company Zinc8 Energy Solutions is staying its course and continues to work on a demonstration project to deploy a 100 kW/1 MWh energy storage system to a site in New York state.
This, despite the fact that the eastern US state has been massively affected by the covid-19 pandemic, with almost 200,000 people infected and close to 9,000 who have lost their lives to the disease.
Hopeful of a brighter future, the Zinc8 team is moving ahead with the project, which was adjudicated by the state’s Power Authority after the Canadian firm presented the best proposal at the authority’s 2019 innovation challenge. The challenge’s goal was to enable next-gen technology demonstrations designed to rapidly scale across the NYPA’s network of customers and was launched after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his plan to generate 100% of New York’s electricity from clean sources by 2040.
Given that Zinc8’s proposal is still in the planning phase, the company’s CEO, Ron MacDonald, told MINING.com that he expects things to go ahead as planned.
“We are in the process of reaching an agreement with the site owner whose site houses our energy storage system,” MacDonald said. “Even if this process is unfortunately extended, it is entirely independent of our development and certification phases which are not scheduled to start until Q3-2020.”
The energy storage system that Zinc8 wants to deploy is aimed at demonstrating the company’s long-duration, zinc-air battery at a commercial-scale. The project should also help the company achieve Technology Readiness Level 9 – which is defined as having the actual application of the technology in its final form and under real-life conditions.
Zinc8, which does business for MGX Renewables Inc., proposes a battery or modular storage system designed to deliver power in the range 20kW – 50MW with capacity of eight hours of storage duration or higher.
In this battery, energy is stored in the form of zinc particles, similar in size to grains of sand. When the system is delivering power, the zinc particles are combined with oxygen drawn from the surrounding air. When the system is recharging, zinc particles are regenerated, and oxygen is returned to the surrounding air.
To get started, the system takes power from the grid or a renewable source and uses it to generate the zinc particles in a section called the ‘zinc regenerator.’
“The zinc regenerator consists of two electrodes. During recharge, the regenerator undergoes an electrolysis process in which an external electrical load is applied to energize one particular electrode on which zinc is deposited. Simultaneously, oxygen evolves from the other electrode. Subsequently, a proprietary method is used to remove zinc from the electrode and to transfer it to a fuel storage tank,” MacDonald explained.
When the zinc particles stored in the tank are required -because power is needed-, they are delivered to the ‘power stack,’ where they are recombined with oxygen to generate electricity. The zinc oxide (ZnO) by-product is returned to the storage tank for later regeneration.
“It is important to understand that the power generation and zinc regeneration are reversible processes. There is no net consumption of any zinc,” MacDonald said.
According to the executive, the system can be configured to support a wide range of long-duration applications for microgrids and utilities. Since its energy storage capacity is determined only by the size of the zinc storage tank, it is a cost-effective and scalable solution that could become an alternative to the fixed power/energy ratio of the lithium-ion battery.
MINING.com: How did the Zinc8 team come up with the idea of using zinc oxide in an energy storage solution?
MacDonald: The zinc-air storage technology was originally developed and marketed by Metallic Power Inc. (MPI) of Carlsbad, California during the period 1997 – 2004. Prototypes were constructed and demonstrated to potential customers. The intellectual property was acquired by Teck Resources Limited in 2012 and the system was redeveloped to the prototype stage. A cathode manufacturing facility was constructed, and the company was rebranded as ZincNyx. In the summer of 2019, the company became public on the Canadian Stock Exchange and further rebranded to Zinc8 Energy Solutions Inc. at the end of 2019.
MINING.com: Is Zinc8 working on other projects, for example, in Canada?
MacDonald: Currently, we are developing the first demonstration of our zinc-air energy storage system for deployment at ’75 HOUSE’ in Surrey, British Columbia. Designed by renowned architect Omer Arbel and presently under construction, the estate includes many features that make it architecturally unique and that lead to very low energy consumption. The capacity of the energy storage system to be installed by Zinc8 is presently configured to be 40kW and 160kWh, but the flexibility of the Zinc8 system enables it to be easily modified to meet any change in demand. The system will be integrated with an onsite solar array to provide the main source of power to the estate.
MINING.com: You have said that zinc is redefining long-duration energy storage. Can you explain?
MacDonald: It is because zinc is abundant and its price has been relatively stable over the past 20 years (avg. $2,000/mt). The inexpensive electrolyte and zinc along with their related chemistry provide a low-cost, robust and safe solution to the long-duration energy storage market where the existing technology has proven to be non-viable due to its 1) safety constraint, i.e., potential thermal runaway, and 2) high incremental cost per kilowatt-hour of energy storage (>$300/kWh).