One of the most abundant elements on earth is being used to create an energy storage system that can heat homes as well as store electricity. South Australian company 1414 Degrees has developed technology to store electricity as thermal energy by heating and melting containers full of silicon at a cost estimated to be up to 10 times cheaper than lithium batteries.
Silicon is the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust after oxygen.
A tonne of silicon can store enough energy to power 28 houses for a day.
Its high latent heat capacity and high melting temperature of 1414 C – make it ideal for the storage of large amounts of energy.
The process also generates large amounts of clean useable heat, which can easily be utilised for district heating or industrial purposes. 1414 Degrees has created a full prototype ready for commercialisation in Adelaide, South Australia, of its patented thermal energy storage system (TESS).
The company completed its first trials in September with a small prototype test system using about 300kg of silicon to store about 150kw of energy.
It is now scaling up its technology to grid scale thermal energy storage systems with potential to dramatically improve the efficiency of wind and solar farms and will launch the first commercial machines this year.
1414 Degrees Chairman Dr Kevin Moriarty said the company was waiting for AusIndustry, a division of the Federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, to sign-off on the 10MWh project in February so manufacture could begin.
He said the company has two target markets: a device capable of storing 10MWh of energy a targeted at industry while the second 200MWh device was suitable for a wind farm, large solar array or gas-fired power station.
As well as its ability to stabilise South Australia’s electricity supply, which relies heavily on wind power, the system is likely to appeal to northern European countries because of its ability to store the wind energy of a cold Scandinavian night while keeping residents warm and running their computers the next day.
“It’s low cost for very large energy storage,” Dr Moriarty said.
“We’re not really competing with batteries, we’re going to be working in the space of district heating, major industry, electricity producers and suburb scale residential developments.
“The big problem with renewables is this need to shift the peak – we’ve got wind turbines roaring away at 3am in South Australia when nobody needs the power.
“That problem is huge in Europe as well – you need to match the demand to the generation and that’s not going to be met by lithium, it’s too expensive and you just need vast quantities to handle it.”
The TESS device stores electricity as thermal energy by heating and melting containers full of silicon at a cost estimated to be up to 10 times cheaper than lithium batteries. The high latent heat capacity and melting temperature of silicon – 1414 C – make it ideal for the storage of large amounts of energy.
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