Paul Liberatore

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Greenest Homes: Are Battery-Powered Homes the Future?

  

Tesla Powerwall unit

When Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk unveiled his company’s line of home and office batteries in April, he said the Powerwall would create “a fundamental transformation of how the world works.”

Tesla’s wall-mounted lithium-ion battery plug directly into existing solar systems and can be stacked on top of each other to boost energy storage.

The sun no longer has to be visible for solar panels to be useful – the Powerwall simply stores excess energy produced during the day.

But while Tesla is taking aim at mostly the consumer market, BC firms are pushing for solutions to the energy storage problem for commercial markets.

Vancouver startup ZincNyx Energy Solutions has been developing a zinc-based flow battery that uses fuel cells and containers filled with liquid electrolyte to store and release electricity originating from wind or solar generators.

“If you prove that your technology is going to work, you can write your ticket,” said CEO Suresh Singh.

The company was awarded $2.9 million in funding in March from the rigorous Sustainable Development Technology Canada program, which Singh said is helping validate the technology for potential investors.

Teck Resources, ZincNyx’s primary investor, will be deploying the first system this summer on a work site where energy isn’t always easy to come by.

Dave Boroevich, chief marketing officer at Burnaby’s Alpha Technologies, said energy storage is becoming more relevant to large businesses.

“If you’re generating power and you’re not able to store it, then unless you can use it immediately it becomes wasted if you can’t feed it back into the grid,” he said.

Alpha Technologies partnered with Corvus Energy and researchers at the University of British Columbia in 2013 to develop a $5.1 million “smart grid” that would use lithium-ion batteries to store energy for peak hours, when the demand for, and cost of, energy is at its highest.

Musk said the Powerwall would also capitalize on one of the markets just opening up: developing nations, where sunshine is often rampant but hydro grids are limited or non-existent.

Singh said he doesn’t see demand drying up for energy storage solutions.

“It’s a worldwide market. It’s not going away.”

 
 
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