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One of the major problems with solar and wind energy is how to store the energy they create for use when it is actually needed. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a California billionaire, announced a new zinc air battery which is cheaper than lithium-ion batteries, less likely to catch fire and store more electricity for its size. Forecasts for renewable energy demand are soaring.
Source: EIA – 2017
Renewable energy will continue to grow from the present rate of about 7 % to about 14 % of total energy sources by 2050. Thus, technologies like the zinc air battery could make a significant impact on how quickly development and availability of electricity from renewables can be realized. The zinc air batteries have been deployed at villages in Africa and Asia and cell towers in the U.S. without backup from the electric grid.
“It could change and create completely new economies using purely the power of the sun, wind and air,” Dr. Soon-Shiong told the New York Times last week. Dr. Soon-Shiong’s company, NantEnergy has deployed micro grids in Africa and Asia in arrays of zinc air batteries and solar arrays to 110 villages not connected to an electrical grid system. The technology can bring down the cost of electricity below $100 per kilowatt hour. At this level the zinc air batteries become cost effective to deploy in a fully electric grid that is carbon free. Nant Energy plans to expand the product line into telecommunications, and home storage use in California and New York soon.
We are excited to see this technology come on board, just as California sets a goal for a carbon free energy system by 2045. The key now is to get our politics aligned with what we need to do to mitigate the climate change crisis. We need to give complete and full support to the Paris Climate accord, take leadership with other countries in developing renewable energy sources and wind down our use of fossil fuels.