Navajo home swaps alkaline batteries for lead-acid as a part of Sandia Labs demo

By Chris Crowell June 30, 2022

More than 15,000 residents stay with out grid-supplied electrical energy on the Navajo Nation, which spans 17.5 million acres throughout elements of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. To tackle their wants, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority has put in 500 solar PV and energy storage techniques of varied varieties so far.

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For greater than a month, an off-grid household within the Navajo Nation has been operating a 13-kWh alkaline battery-based energy storage system. This home was beforehand supported by lead-acid batteries, however the replacements, by way of Urban Electric Power, are a part of an indication by Sandia National Laboratories’ Energy Storage Demonstration Projects crew, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Energy Storage Program.

Derrick Terry, Renewable Energy Specialist for the Authority and a member of the Navajo Nation, advised Sandia that the Authority “takes a three-pronged approach to deploying these systems — safety, reliability, and efficiency.” He stated a 30-year partnership with Sandia “has helped us with the latest knowledge and technical advisement, so that we can deliver these systems to our remote families.”

“We can provide long life with no maintenance, as shown by the IEC Solar Protocol testing,” stated Gabriel Cowles, Urban Electric Power’s VP of Commercial Strategy and Finance. “It’s the best of both worlds.” In addition, the usual zinc-manganese dioxide chemistry of those alkaline batteries is licensed to pose no danger of “thermal runaway,” or sizzling, hard-to-extinguish fires, an issue that may face lithium batteries.

The technical particulars: Patented components in Urban Electric Power’s cells enable for “facile proton intercalation and de-intercalation processes” to happen within the manganese dioxide cathode with out resulting in its crystal construction breakdown; that solves one of many essential issues of present battery expertise. Zinc self-discharge can be curtailed, permitting for higher reversibility and long-term use, and making their batteries ultimate for microgrid purposes. The supplies used can simply be sourced from the present $13 billion provide chain for alkaline batteries, rising American energy safety.

In follow, this accomplishes just a few essential issues. One, these alkaline batteries don’t require recurrently refilling an electrolyte as flooded lead-acid batteries do, which may be pricey and inconvenient in such a distant location. They have been demonstrated to last as long as eight years with minimal capability fade. Two, these batteries have been examined to function at greater than 122° Fahrenheit (50° Celsius). And three, the elimination of lead is essential for Navajo Nation, who’ve needed to take care of mining contamination and different poisonous exposures up to now.

According to Dr. Imre Gyuk, who directs the DOE Energy Storage Program, “Tribal projects are not only an obligation for DOE, but they provide valuable experience for off-grid applications in the U.S. and abroad.”

Two extra demonstration initiatives at Navajo properties are shifting forward with Urban Electric Power batteries.

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Tags: Urban Electric Power

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