The gold standard for a rechargeable energy storage system has long been lithium-ion technology, but both in the US and other parts of the world, the lithium supply chain is not up to par. This makes room for other systems to gain market share. The most recent advancement on that front comes from the Canadian business Salient Energy, which is promoting a brand-new zinc-ion battery that makes use of ingredients that are widely available in the US.
When it announced a cooperation with the US building contractor Horton World Solutions in the spring of last year, A BETTER ENERGY STORAGE SYSTEM, WITH ZINC Salient quickly caught CleanTechnica’s attention. Steve Hanley of CleanTechnica noted:
“Salient Energy claims that its zinc-ion batteries are the answer to every one of those problems. They don’t use nickel, cobalt, or lithium. The sources of the zinc and manganese are in North America. Additionally, there is no longer a fire risk. Compared to the process used to create lithium-ion batteries, the manufacturing process produces 66% fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, they are less expensive. What is there not to like?
While that is admirable, the devil may be in the details. A rechargeable energy storage system, for instance, would not be appealing if it eliminated fire concerns but required days to recharge or had capacity issues after only a few hundred charging cycles.
Salient seems to have it all figured out. A similar “power, footprint, and service life as lithium-ion based devices,” according to the manufacturer.
NEW ZINC BATTERY: THE PUDDING IS PROOF Salient most recently reported that their “safe, non-flammable, sustainable battery passes UL testing standards and enables drop-in replacement for lithium-ion systems in residential and commercial energy storage applications,” according to a statement made on October 19 by the business.
The test in question is UL9540A, which was created by Underwriters Laboratories as the fire safety standard for energy storage devices.
When UL revised its fire safety testing process last July, meeting that criterion became more challenging.
“The manner in which you must test your battery energy storage devices is changing due to new standards. Large-scale fire testing has been updated in a new edition of UL 9540. It becomes effective on July 15, 2022, according to UL’s website.
The company ominously cautions, “Starting then, you may have to modify how you evaluate your ESS.”
They underline that “increased energy storage system deployment has resulted in field failures in previous years, enhancing awareness of the dangers of thermal runaway.” Battery manufacturers must take into account and assess the potential of fire propagation as this technology becomes closer to our homes and places of employment.
For companies like Salient that specialize in energy storage, the UL mark of certification serves two objectives. It gives them a means to adhere to regional building regulations. Additionally, it gives them a marketing advantage.
Salient writes, “As confirmed by the UL9540A results, Salient’s water-based battery is fundamentally incapable of causing the catastrophic failures that occur in lithium-ion based systems.” “This rigorous testing showed that zinc-ion cells neither experience thermal runaway nor produce toxic or explosive gasses even when subjected to extreme heat, puncture, or overcharging.”
FINALLY, ZINC ENERGY STORAGE IS HAVING ITS MOMENT It’s noteworthy to note that Salient’s zinc-ion energy storage system is the first of its kind to receive UL clearance considering zinc is not exactly a novel material in the energy storage industry. Its capacity for storing energy was first noted in the early 19th century. During World War II, the US used zinc for energy storage in submarines and other weapons; later, NASA used zinc for space uses.
More difficult has been transforming zinc into a small, light, rechargeable battery. The study being conducted on zinc-air batteries at Stanford University was covered by CleanTechnica back in 2013.
A trial for a zinc-air battery from Canadian company Zinc8 Energy Solutions started in New York State in July. The ARPA-E funding division of the US Department of Energy has also provided financing to a number of additional businesses for high risk, high reward innovations .
Salient has also gotten backing from the US. The California Energy Commission contributed $1,583,125 in funding in 2021 with the goal of assisting Salient in establishing a presence in the US with an Oakland office and assembly facility.
According to Salient, “the grant money will also allow Salient to engage a team of engineers to design and put together zinc-ion home energy storage systems that deliver an alternative to lithium-ion .”
Salient anticipated that its partnership with CEC would provide it an edge over rivals thanks to the agency’s connections to business professionals and its expertise in the energy storage space.
With approximately 300 utility-scale storage projects, the State of California, a leader in energy storage, has surpassed the rest of the United States. To put this in context, Massachusetts and New York come in at about 40 each, Salient said.
FOR ENERGY EFFICIENT BUILDINGS, MORE ENERGY STORAGE Although it appears that California has first dibs on Salient’s zinc-ion battery, it won’t be long before other US states get their chance.
Texas, where Horton World Solutions ‘s headquarters are located, might be the first of such.
Although Texas remains a hub for oil and gas development, the Lone Star State has seen a boom in clean technology development, including wind and solar energy, energy storage, green ammonia, and green hydrogen. It therefore comes as no surprise that a high-tech sustainable building constructor chose to establish a base there.
HWS’s contribution to the industry is a modular strategy that emphasizes eco-friendly materials, energy efficiency, and little on-site waste.
According to the corporation, “The HWS building system uses recycled polymers from the oil and gas industry and requires no lumber in the structure.”
“Our cost-effective plans reduce waste on the job site. When completed, these buildings will have roughly twice the R-value per inch of a typical home, which will dramatically reduce utility costs. A safer and healthier atmosphere is created by the monolithic building structure’s resistance to mold, mildew, fire, and chloride, they continue.
Through the centralization of specialized work at the factory rather at the construction site, the modular, factory-made method also reduces labor difficulties.
“The HWS building structure is an all-in-one product that replaces framing, house wrapping, and insulation. The modular construction approach, which is created off-site, enables a building structure to dry in a matter of hours, according to the company. The systems were purposefully made to not require the use of expert framers and laborers during assembly. They are lightweight, portable, and easy to handle.
What comes next now that HWS and Salient have combined their efforts to address the labor shortage, the housing crisis, and the energy dilemma?
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Featured image is Zinc-ion battery from Salient Energy.
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