Nickel-zinc batteries for large scale backup power


Oregon-based battery manufacturer ZincFive will provide its nickel-zinc batteries to data center developer Wyoming Hyperscale White Box to equip its upcoming facility in Aspen, Wyoming. The data center will be the first of its kind to utilize nickel-zinc battery-based uninterruptible power supply (UPS) as its sole source of backup energy storage, complementing its commitment to minimizing its environmental footprint.

In the first phase of the Aspen project, Wyoming Hyperscale is looking to deliver up to 30MW of capacity, with energy supplied by nearby wind farms. It hopes to commission ZincFive’s BC Series UPS Battery Cabinets later this year.

An alternative to lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries typically used in data centers, the nickel-zinc batteries are touted as superior in terms of environmental footprint, while offering further benefits in terms of performance, reliability, and safety.

ZincFive BC Series cabinets come in the range of 37kWh to 39kWh capacity and are compatible with megawatt-class UPS inverters. According to ZincFive, its NiZn battery’s high-power density makes it capable of providing immediate power in applications requiring high discharge rates. Its lifespan can be up to 15 years, while its roundtrip efficiency stands at 85%.

ZincFive says its batteries have twice the power density of lead-acid batteries at approximately 50% the weight of their counterparts. Its other technical advantages include safety, reliability, and sustainability. The company's patented nickel-zinc technology is said to come with a smaller footprint, minimal maintenance requirements, no thermal runaway, and the higher reliability demanded for data centers.

Unlike lead-acid and lithium-ion chemistries, a weak or depleted NiZn cell remains conductive, allowing the string to continue operating, the company claims. ZincFive batteries were tested at the cell level to UL 9540A and did not exhibit thermal runaway in any of the five tests. A third-party life cycle analysis has validated that ZincFive's nickel-zinc batteries have a significantly lower climate impact than lead-acid and lithium-ion chemistries.

Nickel-zinc cells have been around for more than a century – originally invented by Thomas Edison – but fell out of favor to newer designs due to their limitations such as a low number of charge cycles – an issue ZincFive claims to have solved. The company started out in 2016 by making NiZn batteries for traffic control systems and has been awarded more than 90 patents to date.

Today, ZincFive provides high-power NiZn-based battery solutions for uninterruptible power supply, industrial starter, grid storage, and EV charging applications. Its suite of solutions includes generator starter systems as well as >300kW battery cabinets. Its systems are designed as drop-in replacements compatible with starters, inverters and UPS developed for use with lead-acid batteries.

ZincFive’s BC Series UPS Battery Cabinets are not the only innovation implemented by Wyoming Hyperscale. Its Aspen facility will seek to further reduce its energy consumption with the help of liquid cooling with zero water use in addition to using renewable power and heat to lower its environmental footprint. “This project will showcase to the world cutting-edge technologies that can take data center sustainability to new heights,” said Wyoming Hyperscale founder Trenton Thornock.

*This article was amended on February 01 to reflect the fact that the batteries will be powered by wind power, and not by geothermal as previously reported.

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