Energy Storage

NYPA awards 1 MWh flow battery project to Zinc8 Energy Solutions

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) has entered into a collaboration with Zinc8 Energy Solutions to develop and demonstrate a 100-kilowatt (kW), 1 megawatt hour (MWh) zinc-air energy storage system in western New York.

The project is aimed at demonstrating long duration (8 hours +) energy storage technology that can facilitate wider use of renewable resources such as wind and solar power. The project is also designed to support New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Green New Deal that aims to move the state to 100% carbon dioxide free electricity by 2040, as well as the state’s goal of having 3 GW of energy storage online by 2030.

The site of the project has not yet been selected, but NYPA is evaluating several potential sites, such as a municipal building or a building on a college campus or university. NYPA anticipates completing site selection in first-quarter 2020 with the project online in 2022.

Zinc8 Energy, a Vancouver, B.C.-based developer and manufacturer of zinc-air energy storage solutions, won the contract over about 60 other firms that submitted applications through NYPA’s Innovation Challenge process, a partnership between NYPA and the Urban Future Lab at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering.

NYPA’s research and development group is looking at alternative energy storage technologies to lithium ion technologies that offer the potential of longer duration energy discharge and improved fire safety. “We’re primarily interested in non-lithium ion batteries,” Alan Ettlinger, NYPA’s director of research, technology development and innovation, said.

NYPA will support the development, fabrication and installation of the storage unit at commercial scale over a three-year period with about $2 million in contribution cost share, he said.

The agreement between NYPA and Zinc8 will result in “sales earned out of the technology” and aims to help commercialize flow battery technology at grid scale, Ettlinger said. “As far as we know, it would be the first of its kind zinc-air flow battery deployed in New York State,” he added.

The Zinc8 technology chosen is a flow battery that produces energy by passing an electrolyte through a membrane and can store energy by reversing the process. While lithium ion batteries have dominated the energy storage market, the economics and applications are better suited for limited discharge of about four hours. Zinc8 says its technology can discharge for a minimum of eight hours. In addition, flow batteries are generally safer than li-ion batteries that can malfunction and cause explosions or fires. In April, a li-ion energy storage installation in Surprise, Arizona exploded, sending eight emergency responders to the hospital.

New York City in 2016 set an energy storage deployment target of 100 MWh by 2020, but has been slow to reach its target because of strict fire safety restrictions in the densely populated city.

In December Enel Group announced a project involving the largest battery storage system in the New York City, 4.8 MW, 16.4 MWh battery at Related Companies’ Gateway Center in Brooklyn. To meet the New York City Fire Department’s stringent safety requirements, Enel said it would use a best-in-class containerized solution for the battery project.