Heat battery

Bill Gates-backed heat battery coming to Australia

California-based start up Rondo Energy is moving to Australia to launch a new heat battery.

Australia is the third region the company is targeting after the USA and Europe. Rondo Energy already has 2.4GWhs of battery storage manufacturing online in Thailand, with expansion plans to hit 90GWhs to fulfill regional and global demand.

It has secured approximately $AUD90 million from strategic investment partners, and plans to use this to scale up deployment of the heat battery. Some of the big-name investors include Rio Tinto, the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, Aramco, Siam Cement Group, TITAN Group, Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and SABIC.

The battery works by converting intermittent wind and solar power into an efficient supply of continuous industrial heat and power. According to Rondo Energy, it can store the generated electricity at extreme temperatures (up to 1,500°C) for days, and has a loss rate of less than 1 per cent per day. The heat can then be delivered as superheated air or superheated steam.

The technology is based on the use of heated bricks, and is designed to offer a low-cost and zero-emission way to store heat.

Tom Geiser, Country Manager – Australia at Rondo Energy, explains that the heat batteries employ a refractory brick material that has been used as high-temperature thermal storage in the steel industry for nearly 200 years. The shape of the bricks is important for heat transfer characteristics.

“It’s cheap, scalable, robust, and lasts,” he says. “Most importantly, it’s a well-understood material which gives customers comfort.”

The company is targeting Australia because there are good fundamentals to work with, including plentiful industrial heat demand, high gas prices, and wholesale electricity prices that drop to very low levels on a regular basis.

“This helps our technology compete against gas fuel,” Geiser explains.

Rondo Energy plans to focus on industrial users who are the biggest users of methane gas.

“In general we are looking for companies that convert something into an intermediate product, which often requires lots of heat, for example canned tomatoes, gypsum board, chemicals, paper or oil refining,” he says. “A lot of industrial heat demand is either steam or high-temperature air.”

Geiser says Rondo Energy is looking at trials for larger customers so they can get comfortable with the technology, and is taking companies to view its projects in the US.

Rondo Energy is also considering applying for a grant from ARENA for demonstrating heat batteries in Australia.

Rondo Energy CEO John O’Donnell said in a statement that the Rondo heat battery is a tool that will help build big, low-cost, clean energy infrastructure fast to help tackle climate challenge.

Images courtesy of Rondo Energy.

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