Fonterra is trialling an organic polymer industrial-scale battery in partnership with an MIT spin-off that could lead to a sustainable fast electricity charging source for a milk tanker fleet.
The long-life battery is made by Massachusetts Institute of Technology associate PolyJoule, from electrically-conductive polymers, an organic compound that acts like metal.
Claimed to be a world-first, the battery has been at a Fonterra farm at Waikato's Te Rapa where it has supported dairy shed operations for 10 months.
Fonterra chief operating officer Fraser Whineray said it was now being moved to the company's Waitoa UHT production site, which can be hit by power disturbances leading to downtime and waste.
"The PolyJoule battery has a remarkable discharge rate, which may ultimately link with ultra-fast charging our fleet, including Milk-E, our electric milk tanker."
As Fonterra was a significant electricity user, at about 2.5 per cent of the national grid, it needed a sustainable and secure electricity supply to ensure smooth running of sales and exports, he said.
PolyJoule chief executive Eli Paster said the batteries did not rely on lithium, nickel or lead, materials for it were easier to source, and they were safer and easier to manufacture anywhere in the world, including New Zealand.
"When you look at where the grid is heading and the number of batteries needed for the region, building a manufacturing base in New Zealand could create hundreds of new jobs and a new green energy hub," Paster said.
PolyJoule said great opportunity for growth existed in New Zealand both as a supporter of energy security and job creation in the manufacturing and technology sectors.
Whineray said the battery installation was the third decarbonisation project Fonterra's Waitoa site had recently adopted.
The site plans to install a new biomass boiler and is home to Milk-E, New Zealand's first electric milk tanker.
PolyJoule described itself as a Boston-based energy storage company pioneering conductive polymer battery technology. It says it has "re-invented what a 21st-century grid battery should be: ultra-safe, sustainable, long-life, and low-cost.
"Simply put, a conductive polymer is an organic-based compound that is not a metal, but can act like one," PolyJoule added.
It said the technology involved alternating carbon-to-carbon single and double bonds connect to form a conductive backbone letting electrons flow along the polymer chain.