NY Sen. Schumer calls Zinc8 with an offer
Urges company to manufacture zinc-air batteries at iPark 87 Metal Tech News - July 11, 2022
Last updated 4/16/2023 at 7:05am
Seeing a win-win-win situation that revitalizes an old Superfund site, creates jobs for New Yorkers, and supercharges a cutting-edge renewable energy storage technology, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, picked up the phone and called Zinc8 Energy Solutions CEO Ron MacDonald to urge the energy-storage technology company to manufacture zinc-air batteries in his home state.
During this pivotal call to MacDonald, Sen. Schumer touted the cleaned up and refurbished iPark 87 near the town of Ulster as an ideal locale for Zinc8 to set up a facility to manufacture its zinc-air energy storage systems.
To further entice Zinc8 to set up shop in Hudson Valley, the Senate Majority Leader said he would help the battery company secure some of the $6 billion in federal incentives available in the Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Law for the expansion of U.S.-based battery technologies.
"Zinc8's interest in expanding hundreds of new jobs into the Hudson Valley at Ulster County's former TechCity site, now called iPark87, would be a win-win-win," said Sen. Schumer. "A once-contaminated asbestos dumping ground can be revitalized and once again be the beating heart of Ulster County's economy, all while powering a cleaner, brighter future, fighting climate change, and creating hundreds of good-paying jobs."
Innovative zinc-air batteries
The support of Sen. Schumer and the federal incentives to bolster U.S.-based battery research, development, and production could help elevate Zinc8's zinc-air system to a mainstream technology for storing intermittent renewable energy from wind and solar.
Zinc-air energy storage is an innovative new type of battery that uses two primary ingredients to store electricity – zinc and oxygen.
When being charged with grid power, the Zinc8 system transforms zinc oxide into zinc and oxygen – the zinc particles are stored in a potassium hydroxide electrolyte, and the oxygen is released into the atmosphere.
Whenever power is needed, the zinc particles are recombined with oxygen to generate electricity and the zinc oxide is stored for the next charging cycle.
While zinc-air energy storage boasts several advantages over lithium-ion batteries, especially when it comes to safety and scalability, it is a new technology that lacks the manufacturing horsepower of the lithium batteries used in personal electronics, cordless tools, electric vehicles, and renewable energy storage.
In reality, a world transitioning away from fossil fuels to EVs charged with clean energy should consider lithium-ion batteries and alternative storage systems like zinc-air to be more complementary than competitive.
The EV market alone is putting enormous strains on the supplies of lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite, and other materials that go into lithium-ion batteries. Alternative energy storage systems that are not compact enough to fit in a car but are ideal for grid-scale storage would help alleviate some of the stress on lithium battery supply chains.
And the self-described primary ingredients of zinc-air batteries are plentiful, which helps to insulate Zinc8 from the same steep rise in metal prices currently being experienced by the lithium battery sector.
Zinc8 foothold in New York
Zinc8 and its potentially disruptive zinc-air energy-storage technology has a history with New York.
Beating out 60 other technologies, Zinc8 won the New York Power Authority Innovation Challenge, a competition aimed at discovering innovative eight-hour-plus energy storage technologies.
Zinc8 is now collaborating with New York Power Authority, the largest state utility in the U.S, to build a 100-kilowatt, 1-megawatt-hour pilot project in western New York. This project will showcase the long-duration aspect of the battery and validate the data so that Zinc8 can join NYPA on many of its future projects.
Zinc8 signed a second agreement in 2020 to install a 100-kW, 1.5-MWh zinc-air energy storage system demonstration project in Brooklyn.
This foothold in the state prompted Vancouver, British Columbia-based Zinc8 to create a U.S. subsidiary in New York.
"Our decision to establish our U.S presence in New York State is a logical next step as we advance towards full commercialization over the next 24 months," MacDonald said in 2020.
Serendipitously, two years later, Sen. Schumer calls with a hard-to-refuse offer to set up a zinc-air energy storage manufacturing facility in New York.
"Zinc8 is evaluating potential manufacturing sites in the Northeastern US and have been very impressed with the locations and related facilities in New York," said MacDonald. "Having the support of Senator Schumer for our company and technology will weigh heavily on our decisions on where to locate our first major production facility."
Three Schumer priorities
Having Zinc8 set up shop in the iPark 87, a 200-acre site with 1 million square feet of commercial buildings about 90 miles north of New York City, would achieve three of Sen. Schumer's priorities, including bringing new economic opportunities to the area surrounding the revitalized industrial park on Highway 87.
The New York senator was instrumental in pushing the federal government and private owners to clean up asbestos contamination at this site, formerly known as TechCity, which was once the 30-year home of IBM.
"We thank Senator Schumer for his tireless work in getting the former TechCity campus cleaned up and returned to its status as the economic hub of Ulster County," said Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp. President and CEO Mike Oates. "As we work to attract new businesses to the site, Senator Schumer has been an invaluable resource to us and we are thrilled about the prospect of Zinc8 bringing up to 500 new jobs to the region as a cutting edge company at the forefront of our clean energy future."
In addition to attracting a potential iPark 87 anchor tenant that will put constituents to work, having Zinc8 in Hudson Valley hits on another major goal for Sen. Schumer – bolstering the manufacturing of batteries that will help enable the renewable energy revolution.
"I made it clear to Zinc8 CEO Ron MacDonald, that I stand ready to help their potential expansion in the Hudson Valley in any way, including fighting to secure the historic federal battery research & development incentives I passed in the Bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law," said Sen. Schumer. "Zinc8's investment in the Hudson Valley would further power New York's leadership as a global battery manufacturing hub."
In a May interview, MacDonald told BNN Bloomberg's Paul Bagnell that Zinc8 plans to begin the commercialization of its zinc-air energy storage systems in 2023.
"I think we are perfectly poised for entering into a rapidly expanding market for energy storage, not just for EVs but for behind the grid and grid-level storage," he said.
And Sen. Schumer believes iPark87 is the ideal place for that commercialization to take place.