Utility-Scale Energy Storage and Zinc-Air Batteries

Apparently, this company (EOS) has overcome the recharge limitation that exists in conventional zinc-air batteries, and supposedly has several patents on the technology. If true, this technology would be a big boost for all sorts of battery powered technology, not just grid storage. The big question: what is the conversion efficiency? – Anthony

Guest post by Mathias Aarre Mæhlum

image

Illustration of Eos Aurora, the first zinc-air utility scale battery by Eos Energy Storage. It delivers in a 40 foot standard shipping container.

In the next few years, an increasing amount of wind turbines and solar panels is expected to be built all around the world, reducing the stress that coal, fossil fuels and other polluting methods of harnessing energy does on our environment.

There are several challenges related to the electrical grid we face when solar, wind and other renewable energy sources reaches 10, 15 and 20% of the total useful energy generated. This article focuses solely on energy storage. Why is energy storage important?

Wind and solar energy (other renewable energy sources as well) are highly fluctuating. We are having a hard time predicting the flow of the energy resulting in two main problems:

How can we assure that we have enough energy to satisfy the rate of consumption? Imagine days where the amount of energy harnessed does not reach the demand.  Or if we flip the coin, days where we generate too much electricity and want to store the surplus for times when energy is scarce.

A stable flow of energy is also important. If we are to exchange our current base load energy systems with renewable energy sources, we need some kind of device between the electricity generation and consumer, ensuring a stable and controllable flow.

Batteries have previously not been applicable for utility-scale energy storage. There are several reasons for this, but most important is the price tag. In the last ten years, technological advancements have been made in a battery that utilizes zinc and air as reactants. The key here is that the air comes from the outside rather than acting as a reactant within the battery.

This result in one very interesting thing: Since there is only one reactant in the battery itself, we can expect an increased energy density. In theory, this can be up to ten times the density of ion-lithium batteries. In addition to this, zinc-air batteries are expected to have a lifetime of 30 years. This things all help with lowering the costs, allowing us to use the technology on larger scale.

It looks like zinc-air batteries on utility-scale could be a valuable addition to our renewable energy systems and help us transition towards the smart grid. The first utility-scale zinc-air batteries are promised to be on the market within 2013:

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113 Responses to Utility-Scale Energy Storage and Zinc-Air Batteries

  1. Madman2001 says:

    Sorry, but you lost me when you implied that solar panels and windmills were not “polluting” but that coal and fossil fuels are. Certainly, a gas-powered generating station is hardly a source of pollution, unless you want to count CO2 as “pollution”. On the other hand, windmills are intrinsically visually polluting and otherwise throw off a lot of pollution when built and decommissioned.

  2. Jake says:

    Excellent, new patented battery technology. Now an oil company can buy it and sit on it for the next 20 years.

  3. Billy Boumout says:

    Hmmm, another “break-through” in the field of energy tech promising to deliver us unto salvation … yawn.

  4. LamontT says:

    Zonc-air batteries? ;)

    REPLY: typo – fixed -A

  5. majormike1 says:

    If photovoltaic cells were free, their installation costs would still make them cost uncompetitive. Thermal solar is even more expensive. Wind is by far the most variable, and will still need back up generation for the many extended periods when wind generation is not sufficient to bridge the gap between product and demand. Of course, the batteries will not be free, and will add substantial expense to the whole process. One natural gas, next generation coal, or nuclear plant – such as the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) that China, India, and the United States are committing enormous resource to develop – would provide inexpensive power without expensive battery and other generating backup.
    Hydro, pressurized gas, and battery storage are not needed, and never will be. Even if the world continues on its Quixotic quest to eliminate CO2, nuclear will always be by far the best option.

  6. John F. Hultquist says:

    Zinc is found underground, usually with other metals such as lead.
    Wikipedia claims: “ At the current rate of consumption, these reserves are estimated to be depleted sometime between 2027 and 2055.”

    So, along with all the other problems of solar and wind there will be additional mining and a price increase as use ramps up. Somehow this all sounds like a solution for special situations and not one for “utility-scale” deployment. Color me skeptical.

  7. An interesting development, if they can get them to market as advertised, eventually.
    But the hype over such developments enabling big wind and big solar is a bit overdone. The problem is the huge expense of being forced to back up intermittent, unreliable power sources.
    The expense is huge whether you are using natural gas turbine backup or you are using exorbitantly expensive battery backup such as this technology. And they never include that in “levelised cost comparisons.”

    They artificially hold down the proposed costs of the big wind and big solar projects — on paper — until it is too late to do anything about it. Then power consumers are forced to accept huge cost increases as just something to be expected in the new order of things.

    At the same time, crafty investors who know how to game the system — such as Warren Buffett — make out like bandits from government subsidies, guarantees, tax breaks, etc. Did you know that 12 of President Obama’s favourite green companies are in big financial trouble, after receiving over $5 billion in federal help? At least 5 are bankrupt, and the others are going down.

  8. wmsc says:

    What’s a “zonc-air battery”? ;)

    Pretty cool if it works well.

  9. Dave says:

    I want to believe this is going to happen, I would line up at midnight in a January blizzard outside Bestbuy, Toyota or Obama’s battery factory? But a little voice inside me is singing “Won’t be fooled again”
    Dam my skeptical heart!

  10. Justthinkin says:

    “In the next few years, an increasing amount of wind turbines and solar panels is expected to be built all around the world, reducing the stress that coal, fossil fuels and other polluting methods of harnessing energy does on our environment.”

    Soooooo. Just how and with what are these bird killers and weed collectors being made? Pixie dust and unicorn farts? Ready by 2013?

  11. a jones says:

    I know something about accumulators of many different types. And I keep up with the developments.

    I do not know what patents these people have, but I do know about the basic technology. And I have heard such claims time and again. It is a bit like fusion power or a cheaper better solar cell, it is always about thirty years in the future and has been all my life.

    Zinc air cells work after a fashion with the particular advantage of offering very high discharge rates which is why they were the pet on one motor car company forty years ago: when electric cars were fashionable the last time around and going to free us from oil. Sound familiar?

    Otherwise it is an utterly useless cell with drawbacks too many to mention.

    It is just a salesman’s puff presumably to separate wealthy but otherwise innocent investors from their hard earned cash. Or possibly politicians who love to spend other peoples’ money on what they call investment. All of which is nothing new.

    It’s balderdash in short.

    Kindest Regards

  12. DirkH says:

    Jake says:
    January 16, 2012 at 9:09 pm
    “Excellent, new patented battery technology. Now an oil company can buy it and sit on it for the next 20 years.”

    You surely have some examples of oil companies doing that, and are happy to provide some links?

  13. DirkH says:

    John F. Hultquist says:
    January 16, 2012 at 9:19 pm
    “Zinc is found underground, usually with other metals such as lead.
    Wikipedia claims: “ At the current rate of consumption, these reserves are estimated to be depleted sometime between 2027 and 2055.”

    So, along with all the other problems of solar and wind there will be additional mining and a price increase as use ramps up.”

    When the price goes up, some of the known resources become known reserves, so the date of depletion is a moving target.

  14. Brian H says:

    For stationary applications, zinc-air batteries may have a significant role. But for “rolling” energy, its problem is the air part. Their volume is far too great for anything on wheels to drag through air-resistance.

    All of this will go “Poof” in a couple of years, though. The costs are going to crush renewables and their hangers-on. Britain, especially Scotland, will be at the bottom of the pile.

  15. Brian H says:

    P.S.;
    to explain the “volume” comment above, standard “energy density” stats are given on a per-kg basis. Zinc-air gets rid of lots of the Kgs, but at the expense of puffing up to huge size with air.

  16. Cassandra King says:

    Magic wands, if we invested enough in research and development then by 2100 ish all our problems would be solved. Its just a matter of investment. Pixie dust and wishing on a star could be the answer to our energy needs, and if ET comes calling then the skies the limit. So no need to modernise existing energy tech and utilise current energy stocks because with magic wands and pixie dust and wishing on a star we will all be in wonderland before we can click our heels three times.

    Coming back to earth, the USA has enough shale gas reserves to last centuries and the UK has enough coal for gasification to last as long and making both nations future energy hubs, now that is what I call energy security. And in 100yrs who knows what power sources will be available, think back 100yrs and todays tech was not even a dream. What is missing from the energy planning equation is common sense, or for that matter any sense at all, our leaders are living in what can only be described as a mental fantasy island and advised by certified loonies and cretins.

    There should be no problem, no worries, no fear, just hope and confidence. But then again the modern political class has found that by selling fear and guilt and uncertainty to the public they can exert a far greater control over us. What we need is a viable hard headed long term policy of real energy security, what we get is an incoherent mess of pseudo science and half baked politically inspired make believe doomed to fail.

  17. Clive says:

    In Alberta at 11:11 PM MST Jan 16, wind farms were operating at 1.85% of design capacity!
    It will be -30°C across the south tonight and -35 across the north. There is/will be a slight breeze…not enough to make wind turbines spin well, but enough to drop the windchill to -40°C in many places tonight. We can expect the same for a few days.

    Gonna take some incredible supply of batteries to keep us from dying. ☺

  18. RockyRoad says:

    John F. Hultquist says:
    January 16, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Zinc is found underground, usually with other metals such as lead.
    Wikipedia claims: “ At the current rate of consumption, these reserves are estimated to be depleted sometime between 2027 and 2055.”

    Neither zinc nor lead are at a price point that justifies investment in significant exploration, hence reserves are minimal. Were this technology to catch on and prices increase for either or both metals, there would be a significant increase in the reserve base. Neither of these metals are currently on any “endangered” list.

  19. When we try and look into the future, we forget that history has shown us that most of what we know and enjoy today was not even remotely imagined a hundred years ago.

    Our knowledge is growing exponentially. Computing speed is increasing exponentially. Computer size is decreasing exponentially.

    To me, this means solutions to problems, such as energy, will be soon be solved, and, those solutions will be exponentially beyond where we are today.

    I highly recommend to ayone interested in the future of energy, including energy storage, to take in this lecture:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tl_J_EeZp3Q

    The future’s so bright, we’re going to wear shades.

  20. tokyoboy says:

    Both solar and wind should have been considered for practical application after related technologies such as this have been perfected.
    We have still plenty of time, and all the troubles with solar and wind, IMHO, originate in the unnecessary hurry.

  21. jimbojinx says:

    Electricity Declines 50% in U.S. as Shale Brings Natural Gas Glut: Energy

    I think this battery is going to have a BIG problem. Thanks to fracking, we have NG at less than $2.60 per mm/Btus. which leaves coal, nuclear, wind and PV WAY behind.

    “With abundant new supplies of gas making it the cheapest option for new power generation, the largest U.S. wind-energy producer, NextEra Energy Inc. (NEE), has shelved plans for new U.S. wind projects next year and Exelon Corp. (EXC) called off plans to expand two nuclear plants. Michigan utility CMS Energy Corp. (CMS) canceled a $2 billion coal plant after deciding it wasn’t financially viable in a time of “low natural-gas prices linked to expanded shale-gas supplies,” according to a company statement…….”. Wind is only competitive with NG when it is over $6.00 and that will be some time !

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-17/electricity-declines-50-in-u-s-as-shale-brings-natural-gas-glut-energy.html

  22. me says:

    This is all pretty redundant now that NASA have finally perfected “cold fusion” http://technologygateway.nasa.gov/media/CC/lenr/lenr.html

  23. MJW says:

    Wikipedia claims: “At the current rate of consumption, these reserves are estimated to be depleted sometime between 2027 and 2055.”

    According to another source, which appears to be a pamphlet produced by a Swedish mining company: “The best estimates say the world’s reserves of economically recoverable zinc ores are about 3,400 million tonnes, equal to about 400 years of use even if no recycling took place.”

  24. George E. Smith; says:

    So how big would one of these zinc-air batteries be for a small one megaWatt storage plant with say 10 days of full output capacity.

    An example of the “scale” of some practical full scale renewable energy sources, would be the PV solar cell plant proposed for placement in the waste desert area in the so-Cal to 4-corners region of the USA, which was described in detail in the Jan 2008 issue of Scientific American Journal. Well they described two plants a PV solar cell one and a smaller, about 1/2 size one using a solar furnace of mirrors, and a high pressure steam turbine system, which is a very highly developed technology; aka US Navy nuclear carriers, and submarines. The numbers are classified, but it is believed that practical steam turbines with 40% solar to electrcity is about the limit.
    The larger PV plant is 30,000 square miles, while the smaller solar furnace plant is only 16,000 square miles.

    To get a grip of approximately what those sized mean; 30,000 square miles is 19.2 million acres. To picture that size, it is 12 times the area of the State of Delaware; well it’s exactly the size of the entire Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.

    Actually the 40% efficiency for the mirror solar furnace system is grossly overstated. If you have ever seen a photo of such a plant, such as one in I believe Israel, what is immediately apparent, is that the mirrors will shadow each other, over the range of movement of the sun, so you have to space them very widely apart. There is more empty space, than there is mirror reflectors.

    So the incoming solar to electric output is not even close to being 40%; well unless you imagine that there could be some other practical use for the interstitial land; like raising rabbits for food.

    There is an inherent problem with solar furnaces, they are limited by the Carnot efficiency, and it is inherently impossible to convert 100% of the “heat” generated in the “working fluid” into electricity.

    On the other hand PV solar cells are not so limited, and multijunction, multi bandgap solar cells recently achieved a new record of 43.5% solar EMR to electricity conversion. Offhand I don’t know the solar conditions assumed, but that is publicly available information. Also the crazy folks working on these PV structures, believe that they can reach 60% conversion efficiency; and frankly, I believe they will do exactly that in maybe the next five years. It would not surprise me, if one day they reach 75%. In theory, you can convert 100% of EM radiation to electricity; but in practice, the available material bandgaps and the difficulty of the structures, will keep them a good way below that. The short wavelength end of the stack should be doable with a GaN/InGaN junction, which is coming along nicely at UC Santa Barbara, under the guidance of Shuji Nakamura. I don’t think there is much advantage in going to Aluminum Nitride, because the UV end of the solar near black body spectrum is heavily attenuated in the earth atmosphere, so there can only be dregs to get at with AlN, and the Aluminum alloys are a bitch to work with.

    So the bulk of the gain after they get the GaN/InGaN working will be in properly partitioning the longer wavelenght workload. There is a tendency to place too much of the spectrum in the hands of silicon, and some of the short end of that is better moved to the GaN.
    At the long wavelength end, there is no need to go beyond about 4 microns.

    The cost of these exotic technologies is somewhat irrelevent, since they can operate under many suns insolation. At UC Merced, they have multijunction cells running at hundreds of suns, with non-imaging optical concentrators. So you won’t need acres of the cell materials, which can thus be relatively expensive.

    In solar PV, absolutely nothing matters except conversion efficiency (and safety/environment of course). So cheap PV materials that you can spray on a wooden fence from a garden hose for pennies, and get 5-10% efficiency, by plugging a couple of banana jacks into your coated paper tile roof, simply won’t fly. The Solyndra scam was an engineering and science scam, long before it became a finance and political scam. They could have offered those panels for peanuts, and nobody in their right mind would buy one.
    If you have solar energy available on land that you own; why the hell would you waste that space on a Rube Goldberg solar system. It’s the land that costs the money.

  25. crosspatch says:

    Oh, noes! They’re gonna suck up all our oxygen to make power! (I can’t wait to hear someone say that).

  26. old44 says:

    Any idea of the amount of Zinc at $2,000/tonne is in one of these containers?

  27. Jordan says:

    My opening guess: 75% turnaround efficiency.

    Which means that the total energy going into the system and generating capacity would need to increase by up to 25% wherever batteries are involved in delivery. Expensive.

  28. ghl says:

    Saltspringson, you are a sod. I watched your link in fascination, He is an ignorant glib conman. Total waste of time.

  29. Robert Brown says:

    Awesome article, actually. It is precisely stuff like this that will make solar in particular a viable supply. Right now I could break even on something like 15 year amortization of rooftop covering solar cells. The thing that makes it not really work is the combination of storage and the secondary problem of conversion (and hooking into the power grid to sell surplus back to the power company). The auxiliary hardware is a significant fraction of the cost of solar electrification on a household basis, and the ability to store for nightime use is crucial to people who live or work “off the grid” and want electricity — cabins in the woods, boats, farms, outbuildings. It also lets solar generation interface better with conventional power sources to e.g. pick up the air conditioning overload in summer without needing expensive natural gas generators that can quickly be brought online to buffer clouds and load fluctuations. A big set of batteries can even buffer conventional power generation, and let more power be generated at lower cost during off-peak times and then delivered during the demand peaks.

    Hell, I’d invest. I wonder if they will work for laptops, too. I’d LOVE to be able to run a laptop for a day on a charge and not replace the battery for 30 years. Or a cell phone. Or a tablet computer. Or a flashlight. Current rechargable batteries such in so many ways — a whole new technology would be fabulous!

    rgb

  30. crosspatch says:

    “Both solar and wind should have been considered for practical application after related technologies such as this have been perfected.”

    It won’t make much difference over most of the country anyway. You still don’t get enough power from either to justify the expense and they are very fragile power generators. One good storm takes out your generation infrastructure. Compared to nuclear, it is a waste of money.

    It makes sense on a small scale, like a house in the boonies or something but not at an industrial scale.

  31. MikeH says:

    I’ve always pointed out to people that there are hidden costs of these alternative systems. Everyone touts the front end portion, the wind mill or the solar cell. But the back end of this is the energy storage in times when the energy production exceeds demand, how do you safely and cleanly store the excess energy for use later. No ‘greenie’ wants to think about chemical batteries.

    The excess energy from these systems can be stored in other ways, not just chemically.
    Per Wikipedia on Flywheel Energy Storage:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flywheel_energy_storage#Physical_characteristics
    Flywheel Energy Systems “have long lifetimes (lasting decades with little or no maintenance; full-cycle lifetimes quoted for flywheels range from in excess of 10e5, up to 10e7, cycles of use), high energy densities (100-130 W·h/kg, or 360-500 kJ/kg), and large maximum power outputs. The energy efficiency (ratio of energy out per energy in) of flywheels can be as high as 90%. Typical capacities range from 3 kWh to 133 kWh. Rapid charging of a system occurs in less than 15 minutes.”

    But I think one disadvantage is the cost listed in the same article:
    Costs of a fully installed flywheel UPS are about $330 per 15 seconds at one kilowatt.
    But would that come down with mass production?

    So when I pose to ‘greenies’ how much do they want to $pend to save the environment, they always have the suggestions for other people, but never really follow their own advice.

  32. Ehrenfried Loock says:

    There is something interesting about that batterie in a Technology Review article but only poor details about the electrolyte they use, which is surely the main new component. I hope the patents will not be like the “All Vanadium Redox Batterie”-patent which claims nearly the whole organic and inorganic chemistry to be used in the electrolyte.
    “Eos’s key advances involve changes in electrolyte chemistry and cell design. Zinc-air batteries typically use potassium hydroxide, a basic solution that absorbs carbon dioxide from the air. That causes potassium carbonate to build up, slowly clogging the cell’s air pores. Because Eos’s batteries use a novel pH-neutral electrolyte, Oster says, they do not absorb carbon dioxide. The company also uses a unique horizontal cell configuration that relies on gravity rather than a physical membrane to separate the liquid electrolyte from the air. The change, he says, prevents buildups on the zinc electrode from rupturing the membrane and causing cell failure.”

  33. John Parsons says:

    Interesting to see all the comments about how we couldn’t imagine the great advances in tech 100 years ago. What? 100 years ago we were burning stuff for energy. Today we are still burning stuff. 10,000 years ago we were burning stuff. If Tony gets his way we’ll be burning stuff til there’s nothing left to burn— or we are all toast. Jp

  34. Khwarizmi says:

    saltspringson says:
    “The future’s so bright, we’re going to wear shades.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~
    Here at home we’ll play in the city, powered by the sun
    Perfect weather for a streamlined world.
    There’ll be spandex jackets one for everyone

    A just machine to make big decisions,
    programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
    We’ll be clean when their work is done.
    We’ll be eternally free and eternally young

    What beautiful world this will be, what a glorious time to be free.

    The future looks bright!
    http://www.oldielyrics.com/lyrics/donald_fagen/i_g_y.html
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~

  35. DirkH says:

    saltspringson says:
    January 16, 2012 at 10:39 pm
    “I highly recommend to ayone interested in the future of energy, including energy storage, to take in this lecture:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tl_J_EeZp3Q

    The future’s so bright, we’re going to wear shades.”

    Using fly ash as part of cement is nothing new. Justin Hall seems to be a typical californian evangelist. Maybe his researchers discover something useful here and there, but the way he makes it sound is like they totally revolutionize everything they touch. I call BS.

  36. Rabe says:

    Moderators, LamontT @9:17 pm
    perhaps meant to correct it to “Zonk”?

  37. JOHN DOUGLAS says:

    Cold fusion gets 11,100,000 strikes on google and Andrea Rossi has got N.I. to herd his E-Cats .
    He has delivered the first commercial version, with orders for thirteen more. The domestic version is due in the autumn . The Saudis will go from camels to camels in three generations.

  38. Old Goat says:

    Cassandra, agree 100% with your comments.

  39. DEEBEE says:

    ….that coal, fossil fuels and other polluting methods of harnessing energy does on our environment.
    ==========================
    Intereseting as the post might be.IMO need to be careful doing one column accounting. The column in the ledger regarding the environmental impact of batteries is sorely missing.

  40. Merrick says:

    Excellent, new patented battery technology. Now an oil company can buy it and sit on it for the next 20 years. By Jake on January 16, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    Wow. Conspiracy theory much? I’ve seen ridiculous claims like that for as long as I can remember (and that’s getting to be a pretty long time these days). Like all through the Bush administration (the first one) and the end of the Reagan administration for the matter when we were told that the only reason we didn’t have clean renewables then was because the Reagan had gutted the research money that Carter had put in place to fund the research for our little utopian dream. Well, it’s 35 years since Carter. And back then and stretching into the early 70s and even 60s there were all of these ridiculous “the oil companies” or “the car companies” snatching up technologies and supressing them for profits. Where are these revolutionary technologies? Do you have a single example? All of the patents, if they ever existed and had their patents “snatched up” by Big Oil or the Big 3 (before Big Brother took over two of them – and Jimmy bailed one out in the 70s) those patents have long since expired. Why aren’t we living in the utopian world they promised now?

    When I here that line all I can think of is Stephen Hyde sitting in a basement after “self medicating” and raging, “they have a car that runs on water, man!”

    Now, if you were being srcastic and I missed, my apoligies.

  41. Petrossa says:

    It so blindingly obvious that it’s astounding no one picks up on this:

    The more energy you store in solid state the more dangerous it becomes. No way i am going to live within 10 miles of a 1 terawatt electricity storage facility. A mere car 64 kw battery burns a house down…

    The only safe way to store it is in inert fluids such as hydrocarbons that need an external ignition

    So the best way to store electricity is to use to turn natural gas into diesel or petrol.

    Saves ten problems at once. No need for silly electric cars with batterybombs and zillions of charge systems, but just everything stays the same. No infrastructure changes needed.

    but why do it the easy way if you can do it the hard way. Indeed.

  42. polistra says:

    You don’t need fancy math to know that storage is not a solution.

    If solar and wind were sort of “regularly intermittent”, it could work. If you could always count on wind to blow roughly every other week, or sun to shine roughly every other day, then you could downscale the constant sources and rely on storage for part of your load.

    But wind and solar are not even semi-periodic. Nature is whimsical. You can’t count on having enough stored power somewhere in your grid. Even with perfect cheap storage, you still need to build enough constantly running generators to account for your typical full load.

  43. jim karlock says:

    —–Apparently, this company (EOS) has overcome the recharge limitation that exists in conventional zinc-air batteries, and supposedly has several patents on the technology.
    —- Anyone have actual patent numbers? I didn’t see any on a casual look at the web site. Do they actually exist?

    Thanks
    JK

  44. PeterF says:

    Anthony,

    you had asked the key question right in the introduction – “What is the conversion efficiency?” – and strangely only a single person ventured to comment on that topic (Jordan. his guess: 75%).

    Unfortunately, the efficiency for Zinc-Air has an upper theoretical limit of 60% determined by physico-chemical properties, but one might be happy to get out 50% in a final system. This is far below the current best standard of pumped storage hydroelectricity of 75-80%. Lead acid batteries are in the same ballpark, Li-Ion may get up into even the 90s%. NiCd and NiMH are in the 70s%.

    But for large scale energy storage you also need cycling stability, i.e. how many times can you go through a charge-discharge cycle before the battery is deteriorated, because the cost of an installation is determined by the cost-per-kWh-storage-capcacity divided by the cyles-tolerated. In terms of cycles Lead Acid (LA) performs rather poorly compared to the other battery types, but then LA batteries are cheaper per kWh-storage capacity. Li-Ion are high in cost but promises to be more cycle tolerant, though that remains to be established on a large deployment. Presently Zinc-Air batteries exhibit VERY low cycle stability, well below that of LA, though this may improve in development.

    However, you can’t overcome the efficiency limit, which limits the usefulness particularly to industrial storage deployments, since you always need to feed the batteries twice the kWh you want to extract! This immediately doubles the electricity cost and turns it into a big heat generator!

    It may still be acceptable when high energy density (per volume and per weight) is required as in an electric car or other mobile operation. But large scale energy storage – I don’t see a chance.

  45. Phil says:

    Hey fellow WUWTs, is this thorium reactor for real or a scam? The guy behind it used to work at NASA. Thanks for feedback, just curious.

    Kirk Sorensen: Thorium, an alternative nuclear fuel:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/kirk_sorensen_thorium_an_alternative_nuclear_fuel.html

  46. Jimbo says:

    …built all around the world, reducing the stress that coal, fossil fuels and other polluting methods of harnessing energy does on our environment.

    Wind turbines do cause pollution many thousands of miles from where you reside.

    Toxic lake caused by mining for rare earth elements in China. They are used to make wind turbines.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1350811/In-China-true-cost-Britains-clean-green-wind-power-experiment-Pollution-disastrous-scale.html

  47. John F. Hultquist
    Re: “Wikipedia claims: “ At the current rate of consumption, these reserves are estimated to be depleted sometime between 2027 and 2055.””

    Please quote reliable resources. See USGS documents on Zinc
    USGS Mineral
    Mineral Commodity Summaries: Zinc

    World Resources: Identified zinc resources of the world are about 1.9 billion metric tons.

    At the 2010 world production of 12 million metric tons, identified resources would last for 158 years. With an apparent abundant supply, that is just what has been discovered to date.
    See also USGS 2009 Mineral Commodity Yearbook: Zinc

    Since you brought it up, please take the time to correct Wikipedia citing USGS 2011, 2009.

  48. higley7 says:

    Just imagine what size battery pack would be needed to back up New York City or Washington for 3-4 days 24 hours a day. After hurricanes there is often a very quiet aftermath of calm, windless, cloudy days. That would be no wind and no solar of any kind. The batteries required would be humungous. Also, such batteries need care and feeding as the work best in a certain temperature range. They are more complicated than first meets the eye.

    How many more bandaids are they going to try to put on antiquated wind technology, whose lifetimes are much shorter than advertised, and solar which fails every day and only works well at certain latitudes.

  49. Tom in Florida says:

    It is time to admit the only way solar or wind will be feasible is on an individual, building by building basis.

  50. C.M. Carmichael says:

    The pursuit of batteries that store and release energy safely and effeciently has been going on for centuries. The fact remains that Mr. Volta, Edison or Tesla could open the hood of the most modern automobile and recognise the battery and note that except the packaging not much has changed. Mr. Tesla’s namesake car is powered by thousands of dry cell batteries, odd to use DC power in a car named after the father of AC.

  51. Steve from Rockwood says:

    John F. Hultquist says:
    January 16, 2012 at 9:19 pm
    Zinc is found underground, usually with other metals such as lead.
    Wikipedia claims: “ At the current rate of consumption, these reserves are estimated to be depleted sometime between 2027 and 2055.”
    ——————————————————————-
    There is a lot of zinc out there. It’s just a matter of the price per pound, which is low at around $0.90 per pound. Plus zinc is usually found with copper and lead so different concentrating circuits may be necessary. Try googling how many new Cu-Pb-Zn smelters have been built in recent years and compare that to the number that have been closed. If we do run out its because mining companies don’t want to take the risk in the current environment (low prices, high regulation, high cost of electricity etc). Google Flin Flon, Trail B.C. and Kidd Creek for example.

    The world thinks wind energy is free without considering the cost to get to generation. Then we have a storage problem because we don’t need electricity exactly when the wind is blowing. Answer is more subsidies to retrofit the wind turbines with batteries. Try building a zinc concentrator that is hooked up to a wind farm.

  52. After launching in utility batteries, EOS is promising a vehicle battery costing 17% of Li-Ion.

    17kW, 100 kWh rechargeable zinc-air battery, sized for electric vehicle market
    – Approximately $12,000 vs $70,000 for equivalent li-ion battery. . .
    Eos Electric Vehicle Battery: Eos Aurora 17 | 100 zinc-air battery (17kW, 100kWh) for range + Eos Corona lead-acid battery for power/acceleration
    175 peak HP
    >340 mile driving range, competitive with ICE vehicle
    Same cost as ICE vehicle without government subsidies
    $0.02/mile fuel cost vs. $0.20/mile for gasoline
    By using the Eos Vista zinc-air flow battery, the EV becomes refuelable (3 mins) in addition to rechargeable

    Energy Storage: Automotive Opportunity Summary pdf

    Long-life: 10x longer useful life than existing lead-acid batteries; extension from 500 to 5,000 cycles at full depth of discharge

    If they can support that in production, that will be a major breakthrough.

  53. wsbriggs says:

    The reference to the NASA – Low Energy Nuclear Reactions experiments is accurate. The only thing that isn’t said, is that they are in violation of preexisting patents. The Widom-Larson Theory appears to cover the Weak-Force interactions causing the reactions to occur. Now all they have to do is figure out the ON/OFF switch. Numerous experiments have shown “Life after death,” i.e. the power generation doesn’t stop when the power stimulous is removed – it continues. In some cases there have been reported power releases for hundreds of hours.

    I love the idea of inexpensive energy, I have a problem with anything without an ON/OFF mechanism – just letting the gas run out isn’t exactly reassuring.

  54. Danny V says:

    If my math is correct, LME estimates another 160 years of zinc reserves at current use. As usual, take Wiki info with a large grain of salt.

    http://www.metalprices.com/FreeSite/metals/zn/zn.asp

  55. JohnWho says:

    JOHN DOUGLAS says:
    January 17, 2012 at 2:04 am
    Cold fusion gets 11,100,000 strikes on google and Andrea Rossi has got N.I. to herd his E-Cats .
    He has delivered the first commercial version, with orders for thirteen more. The domestic version is due in the autumn . The Saudis will go from camels to camels in three generations.

    Is it too good to be true?

    What is the E-Cat? – http://www.e-catworld.com/what-is-the-e-cat/

    $50 per kW – http://www.e-catworld.com/2012/01/rossi-first-e-cats-will-now-cost-50-per-kw/

    You guys tell me, but I’m thinking one might be able to recharge an electric vehicle a lot of times for $500 USD.

  56. John M. Chenosky, PE says:

    Having worked in battery research in my early career, specifically on high density lithium batteries, I marvel at the blogsters mind set when it comes to the development of any technology. More appropriately the chemistry is totally misunderstood with respect to its longevity, recharge capability and most of all its efficiency.
    Batteries, wind and solar will not contribute any where near the electricity needs projected through 2050. And barring a MAJOR ADVANCE in THERMODYNAMICS, only carbon based and nuclear fuels can provide that–get used to it.

  57. anderlan says:

    @majormike1 Installation costs are not a big deal. It’s an easy thing for anyone to survey the best spot (a smartphone with a compass app and a level app gives you azimuth and altitude of the point-outline of the obstacles on your horizon, and you can plot those points against the course of the sun over the year that you can get here http://solardat.uoregon.edu/SunChartProgram.html ). It’s easy for anyone slightly handy to build a ground mount for panels with a few 2x4s, and the slightly more handy can build a shed mount and the slightly more handy can even build their own trackers on poles! Compared to the average bathroom re-model, it’s simple and CHEAP!

    Next, panels are darn near $1/W and micro-inverters are already BELOW $1/W. Add connectors and run the AC to your box. Next, get the power company to inspect it and they’ll give you an updated meter (that can measure backwards).

    This strikes me as an energy-efficiency type investment that will pay for itself as quickly as most, and that you can choose to dismantle and take with you if you move (unlike other energy upgrades)!

    As far as the Quixotic mission of getting off of fossil carbon goes, I think only the market should decide the best mix of efficiency, wind, solar, and nuclear–given a substantial and rising price on fossil carbon.

    But even now, I don’t see how anyone can be against getting some independence from the utility. Over a few years, you can build out your panel array to around several KW, and buy a small, cheap 25-mile runabout for commuting, and you’re not paying for most of your gas, and not paying for any electricity, but quite literally taking your utility for a ride. Also, with enough distributed solar, the idea that summer afternoons are the highest demand time for electricity becomes a silly anachronism! Who’s not for that?

  58. vboring says:

    Conversion efficiency doesn’t really matter that much for utility applications.

    The first applications will be to ease congestion constraints where peak load can’t be met without improving the transmission system – but improving the transmission system is very expensive or not possible. Think NYC. Some very expensive systems have already been put in, because the only alternative is to not add load.

    The next applications will be running reserve – where generation has to be available for immediate dispatch but not actually being used. Coal, nukes, wind, and solar can’t do this. Small gas, hydro, and diesel can – but it is expensive. Batteries will be perfect.

    The final, lowest margin application will be economic load shifting – buying power for $10/MWh overnight and selling it for $60/MWh during peak. This is where conversion efficiency starts to matter.

    If these batteries are real, they could change things significantly for wind energy. Utilities could use them to force wind generators to act like real generators – where they only produce power when told to do so and always produce power when they’ve said they would.

  59. Justa Joe says:

    Based on the picture, which I saw, of their crude prototype. It looks like they’re a long long long way from having a an actual marketable utility scale product. However, as we read this there are no doubt many a “green” blog uncritically touting this as the solution to all of our energy needs and a vindication for all “renewables.”

  60. William Abbott says:

    Show me the patents. Patents disclose how a technology works. That’s the trade-off. You get property rights for your invention… only if you disclose how your invention works. So.. why write an article about a patented process and not bother to discuss the revealed novelty. How does the invention recharge the zinc-air battery? How efficient is it?

  61. tesla_x says:

    “Wind is only competitive with NG when it is over $6.00 and that will be some time !”
    Add PV and other renawables to that as well.

    I’ve seen forward pricing curves for natural gas going out to 2020, and you don’t see $6 till the 2019-2020 time-frame at these prices.

  62. harrywr2 says:

    The first utility-scale zinc-air batteries are promised to be on the market within 2013

    I’m still waiting on my Isuzu pickup truck with ceramic engine, and my Tata Air Car, and that hydrogen fuel cell that was going to power my home.

    110 years ago electric vehicles accounted for 25+% of the US motorized vehicle markets. For 110 years every year someone promises they will have a ‘better battery’ by next year.

  63. R. de Haan says:

    The answer lies in the soil
    http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2012/01/answer-lies-in-soil.html

    Natural Gas Future down, down, down.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204555904577166713425845328.html?mod=WSJ_markets_article_liveupdate

    Not a world about shale this time but….

    We really don’t need dirty, useless, bird and bat killing wind power, we don’t need solar panels and we don’t need ideologues presenting yet another untested but well patented technology that will not deliver.

    Oh that dirty fossil fuels stressing the environment…
    Just try to run the economy without it for 30 day’s and we’re back in the Stone Age.

    Thank you very much.

  64. Doug Proctor says:

    tesla_x says:
    January 17, 2012 at 7:54 am

    I’ve seen forward pricing curves for natural gas going out to 2020, and you don’t see $6 till the 2019-2020 time-frame at these prices.

    Tesla:
    I’ve been watching oil and gas price forecasts for 30+ years. It amazes me that the forecasters have never been accurate beyond a few months, yet all “earn” huge money and prestige for doing it. All forecasts are essentially linear trends from the present. It gets no better than that. If the present is crappy, so is the future. If the present is a boom, so is the future.

    The only “true” pattern is cost of recovery. Natural gas has mostly found its application, which is why the current over-supply of gas is not displacing oil even though on a cost-energy basis, it is cheaper than oil. But the cost-of-recovery causes its selling price to drop below that of oil: even at low costs, it still makes a profit for the producers. Oil can’t drop proportionatately as much, as the current North American cost of production, treatment and transport is higher than it was and (post-well) essentially fixed. Coal, on the other hand, is still plentiful, even if old coal-burning plants need to be replaced: the plants are a post-production cost, not a finding and removal cost.

    Whatever energy source we choose, coal will be the most cost effective for a very long time. The technology for coal extraction is low. The burning of coal is simple and while scrubbers are required now at a higher cost than before, the costs can be spread out over the lifetime of the plant. Oil (and gas) get more expensive to extract as time goes on: in spite of what you hear about the fracing success of tight shale gas, the required price of gas is significantly higher when you go to shale gas. Right now a lot of shale gas is not economic to produce (meaning you can’t get your money back, let alone make a profit, in <7 years). Coal, though, is abundant, we know where it is, and extraction costs are generally constant.

    Battery storage for electricity. Sounds like artificial dams that cycle the water below the turbines to above the turbines would be a better idea.

  65. jgo says:

    Windmills are intrinsically visually beautiful.
    De gustibus non disputandum est.

  66. H.R. says:

    I use zinc-air batteries in my hearing aids. With the new technology, if they can get them to last a month in hearing aids then I’m all ears. Until then… not so much.

  67. John F. Hultquist says:

    DirkH says:
    January 16, 2012 at 10:01 pm
    Jake says:
    January 16, 2012 at 9:09 pm
    “Excellent, new patented battery technology. Now an oil company can buy it and sit on it for the next 20 years.”

    You surely have some examples of oil companies doing that, and are happy to provide some links?

    The buy-and-sit-on thing (some say carburetors, others say . . .) is over the top. However, the issue has been seen before in the “so called” National City Lines conspiracy –
    “. . . a number of other companies to purchase and dismantle streetcars (trams/trolleys) and electric trains in many cities across the United States and replace them with bus services. . . .”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_American_streetcar_scandal

    I remember the electric trolley in Warren, PA.

  68. suyts says:

    “The big question: what is the conversion efficiency? “ Well, that’s a huge consideration, but also how scalable is it?

    For some of the commenters here……… the implications aren’t towards oil use. They are towards electrical storage. People continually conflate the two issues.

    People! Among many other things, we use oil and its derivatives to make our vehicles go…. vrooom! What we don’t use oil nor its derivatives for is electricity. (with very few exceptions.)

  69. Poriwoggu says:

    1. The 5000 cycles is a little better than ten year life if charged the equivalent of once a day.
    2. The traditional zinc/air efficiency is 60% vs 70% for lead/acid.

    If these batteries are needed for photovoltaic or wind power generation then the cost is:
    cost of windmill or panels (amortized over 25 years)
    cost of batteries (amortized over 10 years) + cost of inverter (ac -> dc, dc -> ac)
    cost of maintenance
    cost of installation
    cost of disposal

    The cost of power used directly is Total Cost per hour/watts generated per hour.
    or TC / WG

    Since about 10% of the power is lost in the inverter (for a total loss of 50%) the cost for power routed through the batteries is:

    2 x TC / WG

    Under ideal conditions wind is barely competitive with coal. Power routed through the batteries isn’t competitive with anything but photovoltaic.

    To me this doesn’t look like a winner.

  70. TRM says:

    Unless the E-Cat stuff pans out the best battery is still thorium IMHO. Unless your battery can do away with the need for backup gas or coal generation then it isn’t going to fly.

    Now if it is cheap enough for a serious number of homes (5-10%) to go off grid completely (where you really save the money) then that would free up a lot of capacity.

  71. G. Karst says:

    ANY advancement in battery technology is important and a much needed/welcome addition to our “off the shelf” technology supermarket. It may not be as exciting as the LENR technology but it could solve many intractable problems. GK

  72. TomB says:

    This reminds me the fusillade of articles a few years back about the coming breakthrough in room temperature superconductors. I have yet to see major implementations of this game changing technology.

  73. woodNfish says:

    Wind and solar are the choices of fools. They are not economically or technically viable, and if solar ever is, it will be the only one of the two. As soon as the subsidies go away, these two technolgies and the companies behind them will die.

  74. Douglas DC says:

    I was witness-and a too close one btw, to a substation explosion-that was next to a grain
    elevator full of ammonium nitrate. I do not have warm fuzzies about huge battery complexes…
    Had the substation benn 100 yards closer most of the small town of Alicel, and it’s
    grain and sawmill-plus moi- would’ve been loosely associated carbon molocules…

  75. phager says:

    The statement that there is not a utility grade battery is not quite correct. In Fairbanks AK there is a utility grade UPS to keep the city grid up until local peaker plants can come on line. This facility is insurance that the city won’t loose power should the winter knock out a transmission line.
    www05.abb.com/global/…/case_note_bess_gvea_fairbanks-web.pdf

  76. Jay Davis says:

    “A stable flow of energy is also important.” I got news for you, without a stable flow of energy, the system is useless! While it’s commendable that people are working on reliable energy storage, civilization as we know it requires absolute reliability when it comes to electricity. That’s why solar and wind are useless for anything but single homes. And until the storage problem is solved, there should be no further waste of taxpayer money on solar and wind.

  77. J Martin says:

    And there’s the salt water battery.

    http://www.aquionenergy.com/

  78. George E. Smith; says:

    Well I posted a memo here last night and it seemed to get blown away, but kept telling me it was a dual post, when I tried to resend.

    Anyhow, the short version. What is the size required for one of these Zinc-Air batteries; just a modest one to supply one megaWatt for say 10 days. I can see a winter storm period being as long as ten days, and for a small town Utility a MegaWatt seems adequate ??

  79. George E. Smith; says:

    “”””” Douglas DC says:

    January 17, 2012 at 9:48 am

    I was witness-and a too close one btw, to a substation explosion-that was next to a grain
    elevator full of ammonium nitrate. I do not have warm fuzzies about huge battery complexes…
    Had the substation benn 100 yards closer most of the small town of Alicel, and it’s
    grain and sawmill-plus moi- would’ve been loosely associated carbon molocules…
    “””””

    Ask the people of Texas City , Texas, about Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer.

    The Corporate Safety Engineer at Monsanto Central Research in St Louis, never tired of telling about that accident.

  80. random non-scientist in the USA says:

    Methanol is the logical step for vehicles, and it even reduces emissions or ‘pollutants’, if you prefer. As for batteries, if you’ve had a mobile phone, assuming you don’t replace it year after year, have probably had problems with the charge-hold or overheating. As mentioned above, longevity and deteoration, it has a ‘memory’. I don’t know how well they are made this day, but when it fails, should be interesting for RARE-earth-metals.

    Not to mention, Solar and Wind are inefficient within themselves, let alone uptime, transmission, and then storage. I don’t mind real-time-solar for maybe a small supplement to devices within home, business, or as the city has, on some intersections (though I’m unsure if they wholely supply the lights). Not for storage though, too many batteries for all the buildings.

    And I scoffed when ‘Smart Grid’ was used. It’s more like ‘Control Grid”. It’s like calling Iran a democracy because they had elections.

  81. adolfogiurfa says:

    They don´t know there is a rambling knight out there ( some whisper his name is Anthony) who his sole endeavor is to topple down those high wind mills of infamy….built up by the kings of the dark side.

  82. Dizzy Ringo says:

    But battery power will provide DC current. And the whole reason that we converted from DC to AC is that there is less attenuation when transmitting power over a distance. How do they intend to cope with that?

  83. DirkH says:

    Dizzy Ringo says:
    January 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm
    “But battery power will provide DC current. And the whole reason that we converted from DC to AC is that there is less attenuation when transmitting power over a distance. How do they intend to cope with that?”

    Today this is less of a problem; modern inverters use IGBTs which are highly efficient switching elements for high loads. Semiconductor technologies were not available back then.

  84. John F. Hultquist says:

    DirkH, RockyRoad, David L., Steve from R,

    I am familiar with the issues y’all have expressed. I grew up in the coal/oil/gas area of western Pennsylvania and friends and family members worked in all those activities. I learned to swim in a water filled strip mine. (Chemistry types, take note.) I’ve been through the smelter** and under ground in the Silver Valley of Northern Idaho.
    [** http://yosemite.epa.gov/r10/cleanup.nsf/box/Bunker+Hill+Box ;
    click on the ‘Overview” link]

    I meant to be brief in my first comment at 9:19, thereby NOT turning this posting into The Malthusian Swamp – I’ve never gone there. I just don’t think this battery is a game-changer in the sense of “utility scale.”

    Take a look at the illustration (top of page) of the EOS Aurora. How many standard 40 ft. shipping containers are going to be built, placed, and maintained so as to replace a gas-fired utility?

    Finally (or maybe not), insofar as the post stressed the usefulness of this technology when coupled with “solar, wind and other renewable energy sources”, is it, also, going to require massive subsidies or just ride the coat-tails of the others?

  85. R. de Haan says:

    Besides that, I am still waiting for the 2500 USD freezer sized wonder battery that was ripe for market introduction three years ago and fit to drive all standard house appliances including the washing machine and the dish washer.
    http://www.heraldextra.com/news/article_b0372fd8-3f3c-11de-ac77-001cc4c002e0.html

    In my humble opinion the endless stream of new “green” break through developments in energy storage technology is nothing more but an attempt to channel serious questions about the future of what is called the “energy revolution”, in Germany “Energie Wende”.

    It’s just one big pile of crap

    And so it goes.

  86. D. J. Hawkins says:

    George E. Smith; says:
    January 16, 2012 at 11:27 pm
    So how big would one of these zinc-air batteries be for a small one megaWatt storage plant with say 10 days of full output capacity…

    Based only on the information provided on their web site, a standard 40-foot container can store 6 Megawatt hours deliverable at a rate of 1 Megawatt. For 10 days storage for a 1 Megawatt power plant you would need 24X10/6 or 40 containers. The archetype “40 footer” is 8 feet high by 8 feet wide. Assuming a 16 foot separation for moving things around, which is probably WAY more than you need, the containers would occupy a 152 foot by 320 foot area (based on a 6 by 6 grid, with 4 left over in a seventh row), or 48,640 square feet which is just over an acre. Obviously this isn’t counting the interconnecting infrastructure. Looked at another way, this would support a 10 Megawatt plant for a day. Modern base-load plants tend to be in the 1,000 Megawatt range. To support such a plant for one day would require 100 acres of storage. Even going up to your original 10 days with a 1,000 Megawatt plant, you’re looking at a smidge over 1.5 square miles of storage.

  87. adolfogiurfa says:

    If we revisit Nikola Tesla we will realize that solar cells lack a connection to ground:
    http://www.giurfa.com/tesla_patent.pdf

  88. Dan in California says:

    Zinc-air batteries have been around for at least 80 years. Here’s a link to their history: http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Zinc-air_battery Most have been primary, or non-rechargeable. I would guess that the new patents are in the methods to achieve rechargeability, as dendrite growth is a problem, and electrolyte level is sensitive to ambient humidity. The 5000 deep cycle lifetime claim of being 10X as long as Pb-acid batteries is misleading. Pb-acid batteries may have only 500 cycle life at 100% depth of discharge, but nobody uses industrial batteries that way. The Pb-acid battery in my car and yours does NOT need replacement every year (car driven twice/day for 250 days).

    When I was in college in 1972, sodium-sulfur batteries were the wave of the future. Of course, commercial hot fusion plants were coming too. Maybe somebody can do a research study linking the continuous 20 year forecast before we run out of oil and the continuous 20 year forecast until hot fusion becomes commercially viable. :)

  89. paulhan says:

    I really hope this works out. I like Zinc because it is plentiful, and doesn’t have any side effects. The only other utility scale batteries are vanadium redox flow batteries that I know of.
    The advantages I see besides helping out at peak load is if there are enough of these, there need never be another brown or blackout, which is a genuine technological advance.

    Also, over time they would balance out the price paid for electricity. Here in Ireland, wholesale electricity prices range between €40 – 260 per MWH. Having the ability to store electricity would bring it closer to €80 – 100 per MWH, from which everyone would benefit. Add to that reduced maintenance and spin cycling, and it could come very close to paying for itself.

    No one technology is going to win out over another. The robustness of a system comes from having as much choice as possible, particularly when it comes to energy, because having choices is the only way to keep things honest. I’d far rather see money being spent on this sort of thing, than on the bullplop that’s being described as science at the moment.

  90. Dan in California says:

    “The big question: what is the conversion efficiency? – Anthony”

    Sorry I forgot to address this question in my previous post. The web site: http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Zinc-air_battery
    mentions 50% efficiency for a complete charge-discharge cycle, which is at the low end of typical batteries. This means lots of forced cooling air for that shipping container. Pumped water storage is about 70% efficient.

  91. Doug Badgero says:

    There are some practical uses for utility scale batteries, but large scale load leveling isn’t one of them. The energy density of zinc air batteries is still an order of magnitude lower than nat gas. Remember, a battery is not a source of energy, it is a storage vessel. While it is true that utility scale storage would be very useful, this is no more viable than any of the previous snake oil recipes.

  92. Anthony says:

    The problem is not just providing the energy its also the consumption so if we are able to make our devices and our homes more efficient possibly These alternative sources would become more efficient as well.

  93. Mark Smith says:

    If batteries were a viable large scale supplier/storer of electrical energy then they would be useful for all forms of electricity production- they could be designed to run at one rate at great efficiency and store the excess to handle higher demand.

  94. Naturally Suspicious says:

    Call me paranoid, but me thinks this smells a bit like a scam. I searched for patents and patent applications on the USPTO web site — looking for the word “battery” in the title and “EOS” or “Mercury” (company which recently acquired EOS) in the Assignee Name field. Nothing. They claim to have IP but I don’t see it. If these patents are held in private names, NOT assigned to the company then that is also not real. I could be wrong but this should be looked at very carefully for validity…

  95. Steve McIntyre says:

    this seems like a very useful and innovative development. If the battery performs as describes, it would have many applications. The technology builds on a known technology. Sure, there are lots of issues in bringing a novel technology to market, but I don’t understand why so many commenters are so sour.

    As someone with experience in the mining business, I would urge people not to fret about the metal supply. Zinc is a major metal (much more substantial than lithium) and the resource matters will work out..

  96. Doug Badgero says:

    Yup,

    Lots of applications. Load leveling at utility scale except in specific circumstances isn’t one of them. This is not a major breakthrough, just as all battery advancements have been more incremental than revolutionary so is this one.

    When this problem is solved we can discuss economics:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Energy_density.svg

    By the by, there are already utility scale batteries deployed of a few megawatts The ones I am aware of are NaS (aep.com).

  97. Billy97 says:

    Ten times the energy density of lithium ion requires ten times as much reactive material packed into the same volume. Also temperature rise from charging and discharge would be ten times as great. Ten times more cooling required and much greater fire and explosion risk. How this results in a 30 life expectancy or lower cost is beyond me. It is a bit like using #14 wire to carry 200 amperes. How about using liquid nitrogen for cooling?

    Anything could be possible but it smells like BS. Prove it.

  98. Wayne Delbeke says:

    Batteries don’t like cold.

    My Apple Iphone died after two minutes exposed to 30 below taking pictures in the snow skiing a metre of fresh light stuff today. Showed a full charge and worked fine once I took it inside. Even one of my MP3 players konked out in the cold but was at “full charge” when warmed up.

    Batteries don’t like the cold. My diesel truck doesn’t like it either. I have to start it several times a day if I can’t plug it in or it won’t start at 30 below and the battery loses cranking power.

    Snowed in in Fernie, BC, Canada with all the big rigs stuck idling in parking lots due to road closures due to the snow and cold.

    But the skiing was awesome with the light fluffing flowing up and over the shoulders. Looks like another great day tomorrow. Face mask and lots of layers.

  99. Brian H says:

    Billy97 says:
    January 17, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Ten times the energy density of lithium ion requires ten times as much reactive material packed into the same volume. Also temperature rise from charging and discharge would be ten times as great. Ten times more cooling required and much greater fire and explosion risk. How this results in a 30 life expectancy or lower cost is beyond me. It is a bit like using #14 wire to carry 200 amperes. How about using liquid nitrogen for cooling?

    Anything could be possible but it smells like BS. Prove it.

    As I posted (far) above, energy density in batteries is measured per kg (mass) not volume. So zinc-air gets rid of lots of kgs, but at the expense of puffing up hugely with air. For “stationary” applications, this is perhaps OK. For rolling stock, not so much.

  100. richard M says:

    There are other ways to use improved and longer life batteries – off peak a company can recharge batteries like this (although the article contains information that suggest an improved lead acid battery for utility operations) can then turn around and use it for peak times – and generate a modest profit. Or provide power during peaks that exceed available generation – (btw, this is already being done in China. I’m looking at possible employment with a firm that does just that) Lithium batteries are toast in utility kinds of applications – the fire risk is very real and happens all too often. Ther eis also a firm in Silicon Valley called Alphabet Energy that is selling products that collect waste heat and generate electricity – another possible application here. ROI is probably more important here…

  101. Scott Brim says:

    John F. Hultquist … Finally (or maybe not), insofar as the post stressed the usefulness of this technology when coupled with “solar, wind and other renewable energy sources”, is it, also, going to require massive subsidies or just ride the coat-tails of the others?

    This battery technology will require massive subsidies; and if adopted, will likely ride the coattails of the existing subsidies now going to solar and wind in the form of an added premium on the existing subsidies. Remember what green energy is all about — forcing a technical approach on the public that wouldn’t otherwise be adopted except for the political goal of pursuing the green energy agenda.

    If one has been successful in convincing the voting public to accept heavily subsidized energy production as the pathway towards implementing a green energy agenda — as has been done here in Washington State with its plethora of windmills covering what previously had been a largely rural landscape — why should one care what it costs to implement this kind of battery technology as long as it can successfully enhance the transmission grid’s ability to follow a load?

    And if what happened in Washington State becomes the normal pattern, very few members of the voting public will care that energy now costs significantly more than it used to cost; or that very significant portions of what had been a rural landscape have now been covered with energy production facilities in the name of pursuing a policy of environmental protection.

  102. Billy97 says:

    @ Brian H

    Mass or volume, the same dynamic would apply subject to the specific heat of the material. The point is that if you dissipate ten times the energy in the same amount of mass or volume you will get a much more extreme temperature rise. High internal temperatures tend to damage or deteriorate any batteries that I know of and also presents a fire or explosion hazard. That would not be conducive to longer battery life.
    Detailed drawings, performance graphs and specifications along with an explanation of the chemical reaction are needed to understand how this cell would behave.

  103. Rabe says:

    tesla_x et al,
    why does everyone think that “in some time” the price of [insert your prefered grain energy source here] stays the same as it is now while the price of “conventional” energy sources gets up?

  104. Brian H says:

    Billy;
    I was just commenting on the limited range of applications. Stationary storage is far different from e.g. automotive.

  105. E.M.Smith says:

    In other news: On CNBC the price of Natural Gas in the USA dropped below $2.50 / unit and is poised to drop below the cost of coal just a few cents below that. (Coal being historically ‘dirt cheap’ as it is basically just dirt that burns…)

    In an interview with T. Boone Pickens, he predicted a “One Handle” in the next year. Not a one dollar price, but prices starting with a $1.xx (so likely about $1.80 to $1.90 ).

    At that price even coal and oil have trouble “competing”… (And wind, solar, etc. are just “crazy talk” ideas…)

    Prices are likely to stay that way for several years as we turn the ‘permitted’ CNG / LNG import facilities we thought we would need (and built some of) into CNG / LNG export facilities…

    In related news:

    The Tar Sands oil that WAS going to come to the USA will likely (now that Obama has declined to approve the pipeline to our refineries in Texas) head to Vancouver and shipping to China. They field holds about the same ( a bit more…) oil as Saudi Arabia…

    But hey, why would you want to crash the prices of gasoline and Diesel the way natural gas prices have crashed…. better to keep that nasty stuff out and have the Chinese take it away…

  106. Joules Verne says:

    LamontT says:
    January 16, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Zonc-air batteries? ;)

    REPLY: typo – fixed -A

    REPLY to REPLY: Freudian slip – covered up. -JV

  107. harrywr2 says:

    E.M.Smith says:
    January 19, 2012 at 3:22 am

    In other news: On CNBC the price of Natural Gas in the USA dropped below $2.50 / unit and is poised to drop below the cost of coal just a few cents below that.

    There is no universal delivered cost of coal or natural gas.

    In the US the delivered price of steam coal varies from less then $1/MMBtu to more then $4/mmbtu. The wholesale price of delivered natural gas also varies quite a bit. No one that consumes natural gas ever pays the ‘well head’ price or the ‘Henry Hub’ price.

    A ‘spot price’ for cheap natural gas is always interesting…but at $2.50/unit I would expect to see a fairly rapid contraction in drilling rigs. Drill bits cost real money and they don’t last forever.

    Here it is, the rig count for gas is down 12% year on year.
    http://www.wtrg.com/rotaryrigs.html

  108. D. J. Hawkins says:

    Billy97 says:
    January 19, 2012 at 12:06 am
    @ Brian H

    Mass or volume, the same dynamic would apply subject to the specific heat of the material. The point is that if you dissipate ten times the energy in the same amount of mass or volume you will get a much more extreme temperature rise. High internal temperatures tend to damage or deteriorate any batteries that I know of and also presents a fire or explosion hazard. That would not be conducive to longer battery life.
    Detailed drawings, performance graphs and specifications along with an explanation of the chemical reaction are needed to understand how this cell would behave.

    Don’t confound two different characteristics; storage capacity and delivery rate. Just because your storage density may be 10X doesn’t mean your delivery rate is also 10X. Energy dissipation is going to be a function of the internal impedance and current flow. While most of the nitty-gritty details are not presented, you could at least drop by their website and poke around before doing your Chicken Little imitation.

  109. R. de Haan says:

    E.M.Smith says:
    January 19, 2012 at 3:22 am
    “But hey, why would you want to crash the prices of gasoline and Diesel the way natural gas prices have crashed…. better to keep that nasty stuff out and have the Chinese take it away…”

    It’s much worse.
    The EU and US are implementing an Iranian oil boycott that will further hike fuel prices at the pump.
    Just as if the current prices are not high enough.
    http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=EMM_EPMR_PTE_NUS_DPG&f=W

  110. Jack Greer says:

    Good technology update, Anthony. A promising option to address one of the most important challenges to this country’s future energy management and security.

  111. Wesley Bruce says:

    Old technology! I have patent data from the 1960’s and 1980’s they have a great way to reinvent the wheel. Perhaps they have been waiting for key patents to expire. The green left have religiously ignored this technology for all of the greenhouse ‘crisis’ be cause the major company in the field is Israeli. Zink Air got no attention and no DOE grant money and does not show up in any of the IPCC analysis as energy technology of interest. The numbers for this company are not significantly better than the 1970 designs from Popular Science. The dendrite problem held back in vehicle charging for a while but that’s fixed with polymer electrolytes and was always fixable with variants on the battery swap approach. Recharging out of the vehicle involved either removing some of the plates and replacing them with spacers that prevented dendrite formation or spooling the metal from real to real like a tape player.
    Everyone in government focused on Lithium and tried to pick winners. As a result Aluminium air and zink air were ignored. No attempts were made to develop aluminium based on demand hydrogen even though its a very safe fuel to ship. You can air drop alloy fuels without a para shoot. Israeli Zink air has been available for grid applications since the 1960’s. When you see them picking winners always ask what losers are they avoiding? Why? There is often no good technological reason for their choice. They don’t want a technological solution.

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