Remote villages in Africa and Asia are receiving electricity using a little-known type of technology: zinc-air batteries.
California-based NantEnergy said Wednesday it has created a rechargeable zinc-air battery storage system that can provide power at a lower cost than lithium-ion batteries.
The technology has been deployed in more than 110 villages serving 200,000 people who have no other access to electricity in their communities, said NantEnergy chairman Patrick Soon-Shiong.
"If you look at a map of Earth at night and you see where it's darkest, it's in Africa, Asia, and developing countries," said Soon-Shiong, who is also the owner of the Los Angeles Times. "To reduce cost and be competitive with fossil fuels is critical."
NantEnergy says its zinc air battery system can deliver energy for $100 per kilowatt hour. By comparison, lithium ion batteries vary in price, but often range from $300 to $500 per kilowatt hour, according to the Energy Storage Association.
Utilities across the U.S. are deploying energy storage systems as part of their infrastructure, said Jason Burwen, vice president of the Energy Storage Association. He says military bases and small communities often use lithium ion batteries, especially to power "micro-grids" found on islands or in remote areas.
The NantEnergy zinc-ion storage system is also being used in cell phone towers in the U.S.