November 2021

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Redefining Long-duration Energy Storage: FAQ with Zinc8 Energy Solutions’ President & CEO, Ron MacDonald


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What is your current view of the energy storage market globally and what the drivers of growth in this market?

We are seeing an accelerating growth of renewables worldwide to solve our climate crisis problem. Robust and economic energy storage is the solution for solving the intermittency of wind and solar energy resources, as well as increasing the efficiency of transmission and distribution on the grid. Up until now, we have used existing short-duration technologies, such as lithium-ion and costly investments in gas peaking plants to try and balance the grid. However, with the rapid movement away from GHG producing power generation and the move towards electrification of the world’s billions of vehicles, there is a need for new, innovative and cost- effective 8+ hrs. long-duration energy storage. We at Zinc8 Energy Solutions believe we are that technology. 

Tell us about Zinc8 Energy Solutions and its Zinc-Air Battery Technology

Zinc8 Energy Solutions represents a team of engineers who have put a decade of work in developing the battery of the future. Simply put, it took a lot of time, focus, dedication and innovation to get to where we are today, with one of the lowest cost long-duration energy storage technologies in the market. After many iterations to our energy storage system, we have developed a battery that uses abundant and affordable materials, which provides flexibility, scalability and a stable materials supply chain. Our battery’s architecture provides the same long-duration characteristics of redox flow batteries, but at a fraction of the cost.

The Zinc8 ESS is a modular Energy Storage System designed to deliver power in the range 20kW - 50MW with capacity of 8 hours of storage duration or higher. With the advantage of rechargeable zinc-air flow battery technology, the system can be configured to support a wide range of long-duration applications for microgrids and utilities. Since the energy storage capacity of the system is determined only by the size of the zinc storage tank, a very cost-effective and scalable solution now exists as an alternative to the fixed power/energy ratio of the lithium-ion battery.

The Zinc8 ESS is based upon unique patented zinc-air battery technology. 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.

What are some typical examples of applications for the Zinc8 ESS?

The flexibility of the Zinc8 ESS enables it to service a wide range of applications. Typical examples include:

Can you offer insight into the architecture behind Zinc8 ESS?

The Zinc8 ESS is designed according to a modular architecture that enables a wide variety of system configurations to be created from a small number of common subsystems. Each subsystem implements a single element of the technology:

What makes your Zinc8 ‘Zinc-Air Battery’ technology unique in the global marketplace?

The long-duration energy storage market is new and there are a number of innovative and interesting technologies currently under development to address this market. Unfortunately, many of them still have technical and cost limitations that need to be addressed in order to become a viable economic solution at this time. Zinc8 Energy Solutions is bringing to market a battery that can serve a wide range of storage applications from kilowatts to the order of megawatts. Our technology is mature, and our economics support the expansion of the long-duration energy storage market.


What segments of the market are the first to adopt your technology?

Zinc8 Energy Solutions is focused on developing and commercializing our low-cost, long duration ZESS for utilities, microgrid, and Commercial & Industrial markets. By using the patented ZESS as a standalone or an enabling technology, it allows opportunities for peak demand reduction, time-of-use arbitrage, and participation in both the value stacking programs and the distributed long-duration energy storage space, all in conjunction with the opportunity for a significant reduction in carbon footprint. The long duration (8-100+ hours) ZESS has no fire and explosion risk, has no capacity fade over extensive lifetime, and offers complete charge operational flexibility.

Long-duration storage provides economic value at all levels of the electric grid, such as behind-the meter applications, islanded microgrids and maximizing the efficiency of transmission and distribution systems. 

The commitment to Zinc8’s long duration storage goals by utility companies including the New York Power Authority (NYPA), a premier public college, the University of Buffalo, and a leading international cloud provider, would suggest a rapid escalation of investments into these sectors. 

Explain your strategy for taking Zinc8 Energy Solutions from pre-commercialization to volume manufacturing?

The deployments in our collaborations with key partners, is providing the data required for the financial markets to support the investments essential to our build out of our fabricating and manufacturing facilities which we moved into in September 2021. 

Our newly upgraded and renovated facility in Richmond, BC is where the construction of multiple test zinc-air energy storage systems ("ZESS") for certification to the UL / CSA battery safety standard and demonstration projects is underway.

The new facility has undergone a variety of upgrades to ensure its safety and to support various engineering activities. Modifications to the facility's electrical systems have been made to facilitate both engineering verification testing and certification validation testing for multiple ZESS's. In addition, the facility has the requisite space for nine subsystem level engineering teams, each of which are tasked with testing and analyzing a specific subsystem of the ZESS for certification.

The energy storage systems are in various stages of development with priority given to the system assigned to the previously announced demonstration project for the cloud service provider. Each of these ZESS's are being built to test various system levels in parallel for certification and are expected to allow Zinc8 to have a certified product available for the company's production of an initial commercial 40-kilowatt ZESS anticipated in the first quarter of 2023.

We are continuing to advance towards initial production of a certified 40-kilowatt ZESS targeting beachhead markets such as New York State. These are exciting times as we are actively transitioning the company from research and development into pre-commercialization. We have several core members of our engineering team that have been with Zinc8 from its earliest research and development days. It is understood that developing a new and potentially revolutionary technology requires years of commitment. It is their diligence and innovation that has progressed the technology to the point where we can now present a working product for certification on our path towards commercialization.

Our initial production target in early 2023 has been set by our team, based on our deep knowledge of emerging long-duration markets like New York City. The new facility has allowed for the expansion of our team through the addition of key personnel with the qualifications and past experience to move the company towards this objective. We recognize the opportunity that exists for the energy storage system market and we have worked hard to accelerate our timelines. I am pleased with our progress to date. Our previously announced energy storage systems that were purpose-built for certification and specific demonstration projects are on schedule and we expect to enter the data collection and analysis phase in the near future.

In response to the increasing demand for its proprietary cathodes, which are critical to the cell stack manufacturing process, Zinc8 is set to commence the upgrading of its cathode production facility at its original Ash Street location, which is also home to the R&D team. These upgrades will significantly increase the volume capacity of cathode production that in turn will support the future annual production of cell stacks.

About the author:


Ron MacDonald has over 35 years of both public and private sector experience, ranging from international roles within the Parliament of Canada to serving on the boards of several publicly listed energy storage companies. For background on Zinc8 Energy Solutions, please find recent articles/interviews at Bloomberg BNN, Recharge News, and PV Magazine.


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