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1414 plans two “gigawatt hour” silicon storage plants in S.A.

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The Lead

Energy storage company 1414 Degrees has opened a new factory and will begin building its first commercial system next month before listing on the Australian Stock Exchange in early 2018.

An artist's impression of a 1GWh integrated system

An artist’s impression of a 1GWh integrated system

The South Australian company has spent almost a decade developing its Thermal Energy Storage System (TESS) 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.

1414 Degrees has moved into a 3000sq m factory on the site of the former Mitsubishi engine plant in the southern Adelaide suburb of Lonsdale where it will build its first 10MWh TESS-IND system and the first 13.3MWh test cell for a 200MWh TESS-GRID system.

The company is also planning to initially build two grid scale 1GWh systems in South Australia, which would be comprised of five 200MWh units and potentially play a significant role in stabilising the state’s renewable energy-dependent electricity network.

1414 Degrees has submitted three applications to the South Australian Government’s $150 million Renewable Technology Fund, which has already allocated up to $20 million towards Tesla’s ‘world’s biggest’ lithium-ion battery being built in the state’s Mid North.

Executive Chairman Dr Kevin Moriarty said 1414 Degrees was aiming to list on the Australian Stock Exchange in March or April after it had learned the outcome of its funding applications, which require matching funding.

He said the IPO would plan to raise at least $30 million to support the development of the technology.

“It hasn’t been difficult to raise money but we do need to offer liquidity to shareholders so we are planning to list at the earliest opportunity rather than continuing to raise privately,” Dr Moriarty said.

A tonne of silicon can store enough energy to power up to 28 houses for a day.

Its high latent heat capacity and melting temperature of 1414 C make silicon ideal for storing large amounts of energy.

The process also generates clean useable heat, which can easily be utilised for district heating or industrial purposes.

The 10MWh systems would use about 20 tonnes of silicon, pictured below, and be targeted at industries that required electricity and heat. It is likely the first units will be sent to New South Wales and used in large greenhouses.

Silicon copy

“We can extract about half of the energy as electricity and the rest is available as heat. If we can use that heat, which is required by industries and households around the world, we can achieve 90 per cent or more efficiency from the renewable sources,” Dr Moriarty said.

“Our target is industry seeking to reduce energy costs or emissions.

“We allow them to do all of that by putting in their own solar or buying energy when it’s cheap and then releasing it when it’s expensive.”

South Australia leads the nation in the uptake of wind energy and rooftop solar with renewable sources accounting for more than 40 per cent of the electricity generated in the state.

However, the intermittent nature of renewable energy has been the cause of intense debate in Australia in the past 12 months.

“There’s a number of solutions out there from batteries to pumped hydro but the one thing missing is something that’s proven, scalable and is going to provide a low-cost solution that can be adopted everywhere,” Dr Moriarty said.

“If we are going to solve the issues around renewable energy we have to solve the issues around storage.

“South Australia is a particularly good laboratory because it’s one of the first places in the world where a very large proportion of renewable energy is exposing the issues around incorporating these technologies into the electricity grid.”

1414 degrees factory.

The proposed 1GWh systems include one near the 1414 Degrees factory in Adelaide. It would be connected to the electricity grid and purchase electricity when prices are low, store it and sell it back at times of peak demand and higher prices.

Dr Moriarty said the second system would likely be connected to a solar farm and would store the excess energy it couldn’t sell directly to the grid. He said ideally it would be co-located with industries that were looking for a lot of heat such as poultry producers, food manufacturers and greenhouses.

“These industries all currently use gas and this will mean that solar will effectively be displacing gas and therefore reducing emissions,” he said.

“Once you generate the electricity the heat that’s coming off is anything from 400 to 600 degrees and that’s ideal for driving steam and other processes.”

The first 10MWh “off the shelf” unit is expected to be commissioned in January.

1414 Degrees has been approached by distributors in Australia, South Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe to sell the 10MWh systems as part of a renewable energy technology solution.

kevin moriarty.

“We expect to draw up our first agreements very soon. This will mean the company can use its workforce to manufacture the machines and the distributors will take care of the assessment of sites and sales,” Dr Moriarty, pictured above, said.

“Once we get a production line going it will be quite fast – it’s just a question of building a supply chain.

“This technology is going to have major growth and it’s going to be manufacturing intensive because the market is huge.

“That means there’s going to be thousands of the smaller 10MWh units and hundreds at least of the large units required in Australia and around the world.”

Source: The Lead. Reproduced with permission.

   

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  • ben

    Is the power produced from the stored heat extracted and used to power a turbine or is it via electrochemical means?

    • Steve159

      Judging by their site http://1414degrees.com.au/faqs/ it seems various heat-engines (Stirling, Steam) could be used, possibly whichever best suits the situation, or customer.

      • ben

        Thanks, I suppose I should have read their site! Until today I had no idea what a Stirling engine was, but they look most interesting. You can even buy commercial ones. http://stirling-tech.com/

  • juxx0r

    At 10% of the price of lithium, that’s $100/kWh? Or are they using some magical fairy land price for lithium storage so that it sounds competitive? Because in a few years time lithium costs will have halved. How’s it going to look then?

    Also is that price on a CHP basis or purely electrical?

  • Tom

    Sounds great!

    I’ve been wondering since the Port Augusta CST generator started being built – how would the economics go using wind or solar electricity to directly heat the molten salt rather than lots of precision dual axis tracking mirrors and the tower pump?

    It seems someone has come up with an answer.

    LCOE figures don’t really apply here, because things like this don’t actually produce any energy (they consume energy) but they do convert variable (base cost) power into more valuable dispatchable power.

    It’s interesting that they claim to be able to “extract half of the energy as electricity”. 50% is a pretty good conversion for steam turbines (which I assume is the case – similar to CST) – it must be because the molten silicon is so hot that the steam can be highly compressed, increasing its conversion efficiency.

    Unfortunately, the combination of superheated, compressed steam and steel pipes is a bad combination – it’s the exact reason that energy companies retired Hazlewood and want to retire Liddell. 1414 Degrees will have to deal with this issue too.

    Still, good luck to them. I hope they get built and I can’t wait to see how they go.

    • Jean

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    • Peter F

      Siemens has been doing work using hot rocks as the storage medium but molten silicon is far more efficient and the tradeoff is the cost of high efficiency relatively high costs silicon vs low efficiency low cost rocks.

    • Ken

      I don’t think they are using the same principle of high temperature and pressure steam Some clue in the mention of a stirling engine.
      The BOP and parasitic load applicable when using super heated steam would make their already low efficiency even lower.
      Plus all the chemical dosing and the requirement for 24hr manning.

      There has to be a reference point ( LCOE is a good benchmark) otherwise how do you work out the true cost of the power generated by their system to be able to compare to other sources of generation ?

      Its good to see a different technology being rolled out, but there is a lot of information missing,, a bit like all the hype around wave power but scant published data of its actual performance and hence cost per kWh.

  • Ian

    Not wanting to be a sour cat, but if half the energy can be extracted as electricity and the rest as heat , does that not mean the round trip efficiency is south of 50%. ie, for every 100KWH electricity put into the system, not more than 50KWH of electricity is extracted. The biproduct is heat and ,no doubt, is very useful, but it is not electricity going back into the grid.

    Round trip efficiency pumped hydro according to Wikipedia 70 to 80%
    Lithium batteries. 75 to 90%

    Curious to know what sort of business would buy such a heat storage device. The article hints at a type of co- (re)generation where process heat and electricity is desirable , but as a pure electricity storage medium one would question how useful this would be.

    Aluminium smelters use prodigious amounts of electricity and produce huge amounts of heat maybe there could be a synergy between this molten silicon technology and controlling the Hall-Héroult process of the aluminium smelter.

    A second application for the 400 to 600’c heat biproduct could be absorption refrigeration / air conditioning.

    How feasible would a household sized molten silicon storage unit be, perhaps with space heating, hot water heating, and refrigeration integrated in the one unit?

    • Phil

      Greenhouse growers would jump at this.

    • Peter F

      At the high temperatures that are available, Supercritical CO2 might be the best working fluid, with a separate organic fluid bottoming cycle. It would be theoretically possible to get close to 60% Carnot efficiency
      As you say rather than try to use every last joule for electricity, hot water, adsorption refrigeration, space heating greenhouse heating etc are effective uses for the balance of the energy.
      Compared to pumped hydro this system can be much more flexibly located so and the waste energy used, the efficiency losses in pumped hydro cannot be recovered

    • Ken

      Not being a sour cat at all… as they are all valid questions.
      The suggestion that LCOE does not apply here is false though.
      Even battery manufacturers make reference to LCOE.
      Maybe more correctly termed now as LCOS, but I know one manufacturer that uses a LCOE calculator to verify their cost in kWh.to compare to other battery chemistry.

      I would be interested to see some numbers from 1414 that compares their cost of kWh capex as well as LCOE so it can be compared to all the other renewable energy sources ( solar, wind, etc).

      As far as I am aware all steam generators need to be manned and by someone who has a boiler ticket, so this type of system might only be appropriate for production plants that are manned and run around the clock.

      And that round trip efficiency is pretty bad, so its hard to see how you can get positive revenue from energy trading. May be useful for ancillary services, but that would depend on the response time of the generator.

      In short, more information required and some costing would be helpful.

      • Tom

        All of those challenges (round trip efficiency, boiler technicals, response time) all exactly apply to concentrated solar thermal & storage.

        CST-S also has the complexities of a tower, and many precision dual axis tracking mirrors.

        Dual axis tracking PV is dead in the water, because now the panels are so much cheaper than the tracking mechanism that it’s way cheaper to just whack a few more panels on a much simpler single axis tracking mechanism. But they still using these expensive dual axis tracking machines for the mirrors for CST-S. In fact, these are even more expensive than DAT for PV, because they have to be exact, whereas for PV it doesn’t matter if they’re even 10 degrees out (cos 10 degrees = 98.5%).

        I was wondering how long it would be until electricity is used to heat the thermal store, rather than mirrors.

        I’ll give you one example of a potential application in Tasmania:

        – Musselroe wind farm has a capacity of 168MW, and they cannot expand because they are constrained by the transmission capacity.
        – It has a capacity factor of around 35%. I’m not sure of the exact capacity factor curve, but sometimes it’s generating at 10%CF, sometimes 20%CF, etc up to 100%CF.
        – It is not generating above 50%CF very often (probably less than 20% of the time).

        – Musselroe could potentially double its capacity – to 336MW.
        – Without storage or transmission upgrades, energy would only be wasted this +/- 20% of the time that it is generating above 50% CF, and even then, not all of the energy would be wasted (eg, if generating at 75% CF, then it would be generating 252MW, of which 84MW would be wasted.

        – It may be more economical for Musselroe to install a molten silicon generator to capture this extra energy (even if it can only regenerate 50% of it), than it would cost to upgrade the transmission infrastructure. 1008MWh of regeneration would “cost” 2016MWh of electricity – enough to capture 12 hours of energy which would otherwise be wasted at 100% capacity factor.
        – This would require ?2000tonnes ?4000 tonnes of silicon (not sure if they’re quoting total heat storage or electricity regeneration storage). 4000 tonnes is 1700 cubic metres of silicon. This tank that I have attached is about that size. I don’t think this would be a huge engineering challenge. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9fc5a75947c646d880f017ae67397e9fde5118c94e6f8012139ce212712be500.png
        – Yes, half of what is stored would be wasted, but only a small fraction of the extra energy produced by doubling the wind farm size would need to be stored, so only half of a small fraction of the expansion would be wasted.

        This could apply with even more relevance for wind farms and PV farms on the mainland, where capacity factor is in place lower and transmission lines are longer. If it’s dirt cheap to install extra PV or wind, and if it’s dirt cheap to install a molten silicon regenerator but expensive to upgrade transmission lines, then this would be a definite option.

        • Ken

          SO the solution for Musselroe is to add storage.
          That being the case you would think its a relatively easy calculation to work out the cost of alternative storage, for example comparing various battery chemistry ( flow, Li, ZnO) to the 1414 system.
          The lowest cost and most efficient storage medium could then be deployed to improve their capacity factor.

          • Tom

            The solution to Musselroe (if they wanted to expand) might be storage, or it might be upgrading transmission capacity.

            I used Musselroe as an example because I’m more familiar with its technicals than mainland solar/ wind farms.

            Tassie is a bit different – we have heaps of storage, but it’s all in the western half of the state, along with most of our transmission infrastructure.

            On the mainland, a remote solar or wind farm limited by transmission constraints would be far more likely to benefit from on-site energy storage and regeneration. It might not increase the capacity factor of the actual wind/ solar farm, but it would certainly increase the capacity factor of the transmission lines. Plus it would provide their networks with the dispatchable power that they so sorely need.

          • Ken

            Interesting point about solar projects in remote edge of the grid locations ( where the available land is, but transmission infrastructure is lacking).
            Typically you go to the utility and make an application to connect and they respond with a proposal on the cost to reinforce or upgrade the grid to your connection point along with a cost to complete. This is typically +- $10 million. ( for a 100MW solar project).
            That idea of incorporating battery storage as part of the initial project is a good idea, as it should make the the approval process easier and remove the need to upgrade the network, provided you stick within the capacity constraints when exporting into the network.
            The return on investment may be the issue ( cost of solar project plus addition of big battery storage),, unless you can get access to providing ancillary services, as well as selling the solar output.
            According to Ergon in QLD there are plenty of applications for renewable projects but all in the wrong locations. Not where they need network reinforcement, but in areas where the network is constrained. Sounds like a bit of a catch 22 to me.

        • Peter F

          Storage of whatever variety adds to the dispatchability of power but as you say not a high priority in Tasmania. Another alternative which is starting to happen around the world is re-powering, where the old turbines are replaced with new ones either fewer in number larger units but most importantly with more modern control systems, larger rotors and taller towers. Maximum output remains the same to suit conversion and transmission infrastructure, but low wind output can be doubled or tripled. Musselroe is fairly new so replacing the complete turbines would be a bit crazy but changing the blades to increase rotor diameter to 96 m would increase annual output by 5-8%. in the unlikely event that the foundations were strong enough to support a 20 m tower extension and 110 m blades, even if the high wind power was reduced, then annual output could be increased 30-35% and the hydro is the battery

          • Tom

            Interesting. Thanks.

            With these larger towers (not being a wind power expert myself), I would assume that they could produce even more power with higher wind if they were geared to do so.

            The might reach their maximum output at 30 knots instead of 40 knots for example, but if they were designed to they could make even more power at 40 knots.

            This is sort of increasing capacity factor by artificially curtailing high output by making maximum output lower than they could – a bit of a zero-sum game.

  • Peter F

    Two GWhr if it is electrical not thermal capacity is 1.5 hrs for the whole SA grid or 15 times the capacity of the Tesla battery. It is not clear but this unit + the solar reserve plant, 10% take up of behind the meter batteries is a total of 4 hours. Cullerton takes you to almost 5 hours. This would probably mean that within 5 years SA could get to 85-90% renewables

    • JonathanMaddox

      Yaaaassss!

  • JonathanMaddox

    I’d really appreciate it if they’d be more explicit on their website and in their press releases about how they are intending to charge and discharge. We’re only *guessing* that the idea is to heat with resistance and produce electricity with steam turbines or Stirling engines. Are they really experimenting with different mechanisms and uncommitted to one at this multi-million dollar stage?

  • Ian

    Late to the conversation, and probably as controversial as one can get, but molten silicon at 1414’c is probably perfect for thermal storage in a coal generator plant. Coal is burnt at about 1900’c, and the steam used to drive the turbines 600’c, molten silicon 1414’c. There should be a relatively simple engineering step to place thermal storage between furnace and steam boiler. Coal with thermal storage could then become far more dispatchable.

    The nice thing about coal is that it’s a solid and can be stored very easily in a stockpile, no pressurised tanks needed. We understand that coal furnaces cannot be fired up quickly. But they can be fired up very intermittently. For instance, if renewables fail due to prolonged cloudy windless days, then a standby coal plant could be fired up. Very little dedicated coal transport infrastructure would be required. Unlike gas. Secondly dispatchability of fossil fuels can allow large amounts of wind and solar to be installed without batteries, pumped hydro or long transmission lines. This sort of dispatchability is required on a daily basis – perfect for coal and thermal storage.