1414 Degrees will be debuting on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) towards the end of June 2018. Let’s take a look at the patented Thermal Energy Storage Solution of this South Australian company.
Scalable, efficient and cost-effective energy storage is often stated as being the Holy Grail for renewables. The recent Lithium-ion utility sized energy storage system installed in South Australia by Tesla, proved how effective energy storage can be when combined with renewables. Besides this, Lithium-ion still has its limitations and of course, the other challenge is the cost of the technology. Energy storage is still expensive and has yet to go mainstream, although costs will come down in time as economies of scale kick in.
When one thinks of a battery system we think of the typical battery. To be honest, battery design hasn’t changed that much since it was first invented more than a 200 years ago. Crazy, right? Well, up to now there hasn’t been much incentive to improve upon the design. But with the explosion of renewables, the market demand for cheap, reliable and efficient energy storage has exploded too.
One Australian company is taking a unique approach to the current challenges of energy storage at both the large-scale commercial and utility levels. The technology is promising and should it prove to deliver on the results it claims, will be sure to disrupt the market in a big way.
The company has spent more than a decade researching & developing a patented Thermal Energy Storage Solution. The company, in conjunction with funding from the Australian government, has developed a prototype. They are now developing two commercial systems to be deployed but how does the technology work?
Thermal Energy Storage is not a new concept, as Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants use salt crystals as an energy storage medium to store the heat produced by the CSP mirrors during the day, before being used at night. Salt crystals are able to store heat for up to 12 hours. At night, the molten salt lets off steam that is used to drive a turbine.
Yet, in this instance, 1414 Degrees uses molten silicone as the energy storage medium. The energy storage system takes electricity from the utility grid or renewables and stores it as latent heat in molten silicone, at a temperature of 1 414 degrees Celsius. Hence the company name, 1414 Degrees.
What is Latent Heat?
Latent heat is thermal energy released or absorbed by a body or a thermodynamic system, during a constant-temperature process — usually a first-order phase transition. A phase transition is when a compound such as water, for example, transforms to steam and the heat used to boil the water is transferred to the steam.
Silicone has a high melting point, making it extremely efficient in storing heat. In fact, silicone has more heat storage capacity than any other phase changing material. Now recall from those science classes at school that heat is actually energy.
When the energy is required, the heat is passed through an energy recovery system and dispatched to a turbine where it can be used as heat or electricity. When used in conjunction with renewables that are prone to intermittent energy production - this clean energy can be stored and used as a buffer for when demand requires it. In essence, it mimics the behaviour of dirty fossil fuel plants like coal or natural gas power stations.
The company claims the ESS will last 20 to 30 years and works at its optimal capacity when constantly active. The system is designed for minimal maintenance and is environmentally friendly; a far cry from the environmentally toxic cadmium or lead-acid batteries.
The Thermal Energy Storage system is scalable from a few MWhs all the way up to a few hundred MWhs. It’s an ideal solution for grid, off-grid and co-generation sites.
Thermal Energy Storage Applications
The technology has great potential in the renewables market as renewables become even more mainstream. Renewables are well known to have intermittent electricity supplies as the sun isn’t always shining and the wind isn’t always blowing.
The Thermal Energy Storage System (TESS) increases the efficiency of renewable energy farms. It also maximises the cost per KWh sold to the market by providing power during peak demand periods and can provide frequency support during blackouts. As backup power, it thereby reduces the need for more expensive peaking power plants such as natural gas.
It can also be used in commercial applications after the utility meter; the benefits are numerous. The energy storage system will increase electricity supply security in case of power blackouts and provide load-shifting opportunities to save on electricity costs in the case of a TOU tariff. For remote operations such as off-grid mines, the system can be used as an off-grid solution in conjunction with renewables. The system can also provide heat for industrial purposes.
Applications between the meter at the grid level is where the true power of the technology lies, though. It can provide electricity security for internal utility stakeholders and reliable power to utility customers. It reduces transmission costs during peak demand periods and the utility can also sell heat to industrial customers as an extra revenue stream.
A Heating Solution?
The need for heating is often overlooked especially in a hot country such as Australia, but heat is just as important as electricity when it comes to storage. Globally, the demand for heat is massive. Heating is used in centralised district heating in colder climates, for industrial food processing from greenhouses to paper manufacturing and from beer brewing to textile production. Just about every process uses energy to make heat. Generation of heat can account for up to 92% of the total energy requirements for industry, services and households.
Australia uses approximately 53 GWh of natural gas per annum and much of this ends up being heat used for industrial purposes. The 1414 Degrees TESS solution can be used to provide clean heat or steam for these processes without the need to convert back to electricity. Prototype testing of the TESS achieved CHP (Combined Heat & Power) efficiencies of 80% and the company is aiming for a 90% efficiency for larger TESS systems.
Commercial Project for a Wastewater Treatment Plant
The company is currently developing a unique biogas energy recovery and storage project for the Glenelg Wastewater treatment plant in South Australia. The company is busy developing a 10 MWh Thermal Energy Storage System that will be used to store energy generated from the burning of methane gas originating from its Waste to Energy plant. The project is valued at $3.2 million and is receiving support from the South Australian government.
1414 Degrees has big plans for commercialising their technology and this requires a lot of investment. Technology with such potential though has the possibility of disrupting the energy industry.
The company is also raising funds to develop its largest TESS to date, a 200 MWh system aimed at serving the needs of large-scale energy storage demands. The company opened the IPO on the 28th May 2018 with over 9 000 people already pre-registered. They expect to close the offer on the 15th June 2018. The company will then be debuting on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) towards the end of June 2018.
Proposed ASX code: 14D
Energy storage is becoming a hot topic and is said to be the Holy Grail of renewables. Energy storage is still a costly technology and even with efficiency improvements with new energy storage technology such as Lithium-ion, a large-scale application is costly. Costs are expected to decrease in time with economies of scale.
There is a gap in the market for large-scale energy storage for utility and commercial applications. 1414 Degrees is one such company that is working on technology to close that gap. Their unique patented technology stores energy as heat in molten silicon. The technology is cost-effective, scalable and environmentally friendly. Systems can be developed with a capacity of a few MWhs to a few hundred MWhs. Not only will the TESS or Thermal Energy Storage System be able to supply electricity, but also heat for industrial processes.
The technology holds great potential for utility grid operations to commercial operations and renewable energy farms.
A prototype has already been built with a few commercial systems being developed at the present.
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Photo credit: 1414 Degrees