Campus News

Zinc energy storage system to be piloted at UB

 3D rendering of the Zinc8 energy storage system.

The innovative battery-technology system that UB will pilot uses zinc and air as fuel, providing a cost-effective solution for energy storage that makes clean energy reliable and available as and when needed.

UBNOW STAFF

Published April 12, 2021

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“Although the project will mainly be used for peak shaving research, we are also interested in exploring alternative uses, such as emergency back-up for our campus buildings, gaining insight into the life cycle cost for alternative energy sources, and introducing our staff to the latest technology. Initiatives such as this will greatly help UB in our quest to achieve climate neutrality by 2030. ”
Tonga Pham, associate vice president
University Facilities

In a continuation of the university’s climate neutrality efforts, UB will serve as a host site for an innovative battery-technology system that uses zinc and air as fuel. The technology, developed by Vancouver-based Zinc8 Energy Solutions, provides a cost-effective solution for energy storage, making clean energy reliable and available as and when required.

As part of an agreement announced April 7 between Zinc8, UB and the New York Power Authority, Zinc8 will install a 100kW/1MWh Energy Storage System on UB’s North Campus.

Energy storage systems help reduce power demand charges through a practice called peak shaving. The Zinc8 system will be used primarily to provide peak shaving capability by leveling out peaks in electricity consumption, increase campus resiliency and assist in training campus utility staff with new energy storage technology.

“UB is very excited to pilot this innovative energy storage system and is grateful for our partnership with NYPA and Zinc8,” says Tonga Pham, associate vice president of facilities. “Although the project will mainly be used for peak shaving research, we are also interested in exploring alternative uses, such as emergency back-up for our campus buildings, gaining insight into the life cycle cost for alternative energy sources, and introducing our staff to the latest technology. Initiatives such as this will greatly help UB in our quest to achieve climate neutrality by 2030.”

The Zinc8 ESS is a modular system designed to deliver power in the range of 20 kilowatts to 50 megawatts, with capacity of eight hours of storage duration or higher. Since the energy storage capacity of the system is determined only by the size of the zinc storage tank, it provides a cost-effective and scalable solution as an alternative to the fixed power/energy ratio of the lithium-ion battery.

In the Zinc8 ESS, 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.

The system will be installed a few hundred feet from the award-winning UB Solar Strand, a project that NYPA and UB completed nearly a decade ago, and the newly relocated GRoW Clean Energy Center, a key part of UB’s climate action education and outreach efforts.

In addition, the energy storage system will be connected to the Baker Chilled Water Plant, which provides a cooling capacity of 168 million BTUs per hour, equivalent to 21,000 typical window air conditioning units.

“We are very pleased to have the University at Buffalo join in our collaboration with the New York Power Authority to install our 100kW/1MWh Zinc-air Energy Storage System. This is a major milestone for Zinc8 on its path to our full commercialization target in early 2023,” said Zinc8 Energy Solutions President and CEO Ron MacDonald.

Under the agreement with Zinc8, NYPA will contribute to the installation costs of the energy storage system at UB and share in the data generated during the demonstration period.

Zinc8 won a contract to accelerate the new technology in the Innovation Challenge, a partnership between the New York Power Authority and the Urban Future Lab at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering.

“NYPA recognizes the potential for this first-of-its-kind clean energy solution, and it is rewarding to see the project begin to take shape,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. “The collaboration with Zinc8 and the University at Buffalo bodes well for a successful demonstration project that addresses the need for reliability of renewable energy resources and will help achieve New York State’s targets for energy storage.”