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Solar developer pursues zinc alkaline battery energy storage options

Pine Gate Renewables, a North Carolina-based solar and storage developer, is taking steps to diversify its battery supply for solar-paired and standalone energy storage projects.

Pine Gate Renewables, a North Carolina-based utility-scale solar and storage developer, said it is taking steps to diversify its battery supply for solar-paired and standalone energy storage projects with two agreements for non-lithium ion solutions.

The company signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Urban Electric Power for up to 4,550 MWh of zinc alkaline batteries over the next five years.

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While nonbinding, the agreement gives Pine Gate “preferential terms” and access to Urban Electric Power’s battery supply each year. The rechargeable zinc alkaline batteries will be among the energy storage options available to Pine Gate’s customers, according to a press release.

Urban Electric Power’s technology tweaks the chemistry of the familiar household AA battery to make it rechargeable. 

EnerVenue’s metal-hydrogen battery energy storage system (Courtesy: EnerVenue)

In a separate agreement, Pine Gate has agreed to buy and deploy 2,400 MWh of EnerVenue’s metal-hydrogen battery energy storage systems. Renewable Energy World asked whether this agreement is also non-binding and is waiting to hear back.

Founded in 2020, EnerVenue raised $125 million in Series A funding last September. Pine Gate’s director of energy storage, Raafe Khan, said EnerVenue’s battery storage system offers “lower degradation across a wide temperature band, and lower cost for maintenance and augmentation, while posing no fire or thermal runway risk” as compared to traditional lithium-ion battery systems.

Declining costs have made lithium-ion batteries the energy storage solution of choice for many utility-scale renewable energy development around the world. Alternative options, however, aim to address some challenges for lithium-ion batteries like supply chain constraints and safety.

Urban Electric Power said its products are certified to UL standards as not subject to thermal runaway, meaning they are fire-safe for indoor installations in cities. They contain no cobalt, whose mining in Africa comes with human rights concerns. The batteries also are lead-free, reducing the risk of exposure to the toxic material.

“We are committed to supporting our partners and customers with safe, domestically manufactured, scalable, reliable, and durable solutions that they can connect with for their storage needs,” Khan said. 

A portion of the San Diego Supercomputing  Center’s new zinc alkaline battery backup system (Courtesy: Urban Electric Power)

Urban Electric Power said its utility-scale battery system is configurable for 2-to-24 hour charge/discharge cycles and has the option for direct solar PV coupling.

The company’s batteries are assembled at a factory in Pearl River, New York.

In April, Urban Electric Power installed its first “enterprise-scale” zinc alkaline battery system at the San Diego Supercomputer Center. The zinc-based battery system replaced lead-acid batteries for backup electricity.

Some 5,200 individual alkaline cells are arrayed in SDSC’s initial installation, which stores 1 MWh worth of electricity and replaces lead-acid batteries now being recycled. An additional 5,200 cells are on the way, in a Phase 2 of the same size that is expected to be commissioned this summer at the San Diego site.

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