Thermal storage hopeful raises funds to get back on track after “dangerous heat incident”

Image: MGA Thermal

New South Wales energy storage hopeful MGA Thermal says its commercialisation plans now are back on track, after the successful close of another round of fundraising. 

The latest trip to the VC bank secured $5.7 million in funding from Main Sequence, Melt Ventures and new investor Jekara, adding to the $8.25 million it received in August and is going towards its first factory. 

Its total funding to date, which includes a grant from Shell a year ago to finish an initial device, is now $28.8 million.

The company’s energy storage technology uses miscibility gap alloys (MGA), a material invented and perfected by cofounders Erich Kisi and Alexander Post over a decade at the University of Newcastle. 

A miscibility gap is an area in a mixture or alloy where the different components don’t mix well and instead separate into two or more regions with different compositions.

It works by stacking the blocks of MGA into insulated tanks to store huge amounts of energy.

But the company’s plans hit a speed bump in October last year when a “dangerous heat build-up” during commissioning of the $3 million, 5 megawatt hour (MWh) pilot plant in Tomago had to be brought under control with the help of emergency services. 

The pilot – intended to charge and discharge in the form of steam at up to 500kW for 10 hours and operate at temperatures of 400°C to 700°C – was suspended to investigate the cause of the incident.

MGA Thermal CEO Mark Croudace says the event was “a valuable learning opportunity” and the company is now preparing to restart commissioning of the plant.

“We remain on track to reach our next business milestone of commercial-scale operations and energy output,” he says. 

The latest round of fundraising will allow for more testing to restart the system and prove it at scale, as well as providing enough high pressure, hot steam for industrial use. 

The company says it has a queue of potential customers from manufacturing through to mining are lining up for the 24/7 steam generation capacity, as consumer pressure and regulatory changes are forcing companies to take decarbonisation seriously.

“We have continued working with numerous industrial partners and clients over the last six months which cannot solely rely on solar, wind and renewable energy sources to meet their decarbonisation goals,” says Croudace. 

Once the pilot is back on track and has been proved, the next phase will be providing on-site MGA systems to partners for steam and energy storage capabilities, he says.

Rachel Williamson is a science and business journalist, who focuses on climate change-related health and environmental issues.

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