Flathead Electric to Install New Zinc Air Battery

By Beacon Staff

Flathead Electric Co-op plans to install an advanced large-scale battery developed by Zinc Air Inc. on its campus in Kalispell to test out the new technology, company officials announced Thursday.

The installation will act as a trial run for Zinc Air, which has been working on battery modules that could store large amounts of energy generated by existing utilities and renewable sources.

The field trial will allow Zinc and Flathead Electric to run a number of applications for both utility and co-op customer benefits, such as peak demand reduction and load shifting, according to company officials.

Cheryl Talley, FEC’s director of member and energy services, said she is interested in the results of the project and how it might benefit members of the co-op.

Zinc Air is delivering its first field installations this year and hopes for commercial deployments in 2014, according to the company.

“This is another major step for Zinc Air and commercializing our technology. Working with FEC will give us first-hand knowledge and experience in the operation of the battery system,” Zinc President Craig Wilkins said in a statement. “Running these tests in our own back yard is also a great way for us to support the local economy.”

The Zinc Redox battery is being designed to provide a low-cost, environmentally safe solution to vast inefficiencies and imbalances within the nation’s energy grid. It could also provide renewable sources, like wind farms, a new ability to store unused energy that could be used later.

Company officials unveiled the modules at open house events in December. Zinc researchers say their batteries will be able to individually store enough energy to run roughly 140 homes for an hour.

Flathead Electric was established in 1937 and is the largest electric cooperative in Montana, with a mix of rural and urban residential, commercial, and industrial members.

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