Published on May 9th, 2012 | by Joshua S Hill


New Battery System Could Reduce Buildings’ Electric Bills

May 9th, 2012 by  

The CUNY Energy Institute has developed a new low-cost, safe, non-toxic battery with fast discharge rates and high energy densities that could save thousands in energy costs each month.

An operating prototype zinc-anode battery system has been developed and is now housed in the basement of Steinman Hall on The City College of New York campus. It consists of 36 individual 1-kWh nickel-zinc flow-assisted cells strung together and operated by a sophisticated advanced battery management system (BMS) that controls the charge/discharge protocol that could eventually lead to a battery capable of more than 5,000 to 10,000 charge cycles and a useful life exceeding ten years.

“This is affordable, rechargeable electricity storage made from cheap, non-toxic materials that are inherently safe,” said Dr. Sanjoy Banerjee, director of the CUNY Energy Institute and distinguished professor of engineering in CCNY’s Grove School of Engineering. “The entire Energy Institute has worked on these batteries – stacking electrodes, mounting terminals, connecting to the inverters – and they are going to be a game changer for the electric grid.”

Dr. Sanjoy Banerjee, Director, CUNY Energy Institute, shows the Institute's prototype zinc anode battery system located in Steinman Hall on The City College of New York campus.

The prototype is being expanded currently to 100 kWh with another 200 kWh expected to be installed later this year, at which point it will be capable of meeting more than 30 percent of Steinman Hall’s peak-demand power needs, providing the college with savings of $6,000 or more per month.

A battery such as this could be installed in industrial facilities and large commercial properties, and can be produced for a cost of approximately $300 to $500 per kWh range, which amounts to a payback period of three to five years for many applications.

Source: City College of New York

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  • Rufus Cole

    The problem with innovations like this that promote independent energy responsibility is that they are stopped at every point by the energy provider giants. With the latest innovations in renewable energy for the home, and the goal of massive worldwide solar penetration, they are seeing the death of their business and will make it harder for us to obtain independence from their services.

    solar panels bristol

    • Bob_Wallace

      That claim rings very false to me.

      Can you back up your statement?

  • Bob_Wallace

    Another grid battery to watch is Aquion. They’ve got a sodium-ion battery that’s been tested by an independent lab for 5,000 100% DoD cycles and expect to be able to hit 20,000 cycles.

    Their battery is 100% recyclable, can be 100% discharged with no damage, operates at room temperature and does not suffer form high heat conditions.

    Aquion is currently setting up a factory in Pennsylvania and expects to be shipping in 2013. They are projecting a $300/kW price.

    If they can hit $300/kW and 20k cycles then the cost of storing electricity drops to about $0.015/kWh – an extremely affordable price.

    Stuff is happening….

  • Matt

    Looking at the Texas spot market charts from last month post. At night the wholesale cost sometimes hit zero, but more mormally were around $0.10 per kWh. The peak was in the $0.40-0.65 range.

    So a wind farm owner looks and says well I’ll make 30 to 40 cent more a kWh by selling during peak instead of at night. Lets say $0.33, so in one year that is about $120 per kWh “moved”.

    So the market for fix location batteries (this, flow batteries, etc) is both producers and users. The cost estimate above is $300-500 per kWh, and as storage moves into mass production those will drop.

    I guess the long term draw back is that the peak/non-peak spread will drop. So will be harder to make money on the spread. And all that night time wind power will be useable during the day, so “base line” coal becomes much less useful. Oh well I’ll get over the not having coal to kick around.

    • Bob_Wallace

      It is going to be very interesting to watch the electricity industry morph over time. The old model won’t hold, it’s already crumbling.

      If you check the most recent ERCOT wholesale prices you’ll see that the cost of electricity sometimes drops below zero and sometimes soars to far more than $0.40/kWh. This afternoon at 4pm the price rose to around $1.50/kWh for one 15 minute block.

      Create an well priced, long lasting battery and the old pricing systems will go away.

      *If prices hit $300/kW, then 5,000 100% DoD cycles means electricity can be stored for $0.06/kWh. 10,000 cycles lets electricity be stored for $0.03/kWh.*

      If wind can profitably produce for $0.06/kWh and if solar drops that low then we can have clean 24/365 power for a dime or less. Prices might drop a bit lower for power used when supply is higher and rise a bit when it’s coming from storage, but it should be nothing like the huge price difference of today.

      • it’s going to be very interesting to see how it morphs as storage grows, TOU pricing becomes more common, and peak pricing gets cut from solar power. some of these trends pull developers and utilities in diff directions.

  • Ross

    How does the cost of this compare with MIT Prof. Donald Sadoway’s high temperature magnesium-antinomy flow battery whose TED talk was linked to here last month. I didn’t notice a cost per kWh figure being claimed for that one.

    • Don’t know… needs more development before we will it seems

  • anderlan

    I’m guessing they have time-of-day power billing so they charge up the bank when the price is low? I love the augmentation of school infrastructure with student talent.

    • Steve K

      not necessarily. The electric providers are PAYING more for the electricity during peak, not necessarily selling it for more. Their average rates have to reflect that, though, to avoid going bankrupt.

      • Bob_Wallace

        TOU (time of use) billing happens in some markets. With smart meters we’re likely to see a lot more of it.

        My guess is that we’ll see a lot of TOU billing. Overall TOU billing should save us a lot on our power bills. By pushing some demand off peak hours we won’t have to purchase as much very expensive peaking power.

        Just getting a lot more demand to late night wind would be a great benefit. It would make wind more profitable for wind farms and cause more to be built. That would mean additional cheap wind during peak hours.

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