“World’s first working thermal battery” promises cheap(er) energy storage

Posted: April 1, 2019 by oldbrew in Energy, innovation
Tags: ,

Thermal battery

Various battery proposals sound promising, but few seem to survive the development stage and make it commercially. This outfit says it already has some sales, and plans to ‘build 100-megawatt-plus installations within a couple of years.’ Will it work out that way?

A South Australia-based startup says it’s built a thermal energy storage device with a lifetime of at least 20 years​ that can store six times more energy than lithium-ion batteries per volume, for 60-80 percent of the price, reports New Atlas.

South Australia has recently put the world’s biggest lithium battery into operation – but perhaps it should’ve waited.

Climate Change Technologies, also known as CCT Energy Storage, has launched its TED (Thermal Energy Device) with a set of remarkable claims.

TED is a modular energy storage unit that accepts any kind of electricity – solar, wind, fossil fuel-generated or straight off the grid – and uses it to heat up and melt silicon in a heavily insulated chamber. Whenever that energy is required, it’s pulled out with a heat engine.

A standard TED box holds 1.2 megawatt-hours of energy, with all input and output electronics on board, and fits easily into a 20-ft (6-m) container.

Here are some of CCT’s banner claims about the TED: For a given size volume, it can store more than 12 times more energy than a lead-acid battery, and several times more than lithium-ion solutions. Installations can scale from 5-kilowatt applications out to a virtually unlimited size.

Hundreds of megawatts of instantly accessible, easily controllable power should be no problem – all you need to do is add more units, plug-and-play style. In the case of an outage, each TED device can remain active for about 48 hours.

It can also charge and discharge at the same time, and there are only three moving parts per box, so maintenance is almost negligible.

Where lithium-ion and other batteries degrade over time, perhaps dropping to 80 percent capacity in some 5,000 cycles or so, the TED system has shown no signs of degrading after 3,000 cycles of service on the test bench, and CCT’s CEO Serge Bondarenko tells us over the phone that the company expects its units to last at least 20 years.

“Molten silicon just doesn’t degrade like lithium does,” says Bondarenko.

Full report here.

UPDATE: CCT is in a legal dispute with commercial rival 1414 Degrees
New battery stuck in legal limbo – from The Australian
H/T Phil Salmon

  1. JB says:

    No mention of conversion efficiency.

  2. Stephen Richards says:

    A standard TED box holds 1.2 megawatt-hours of energy, with all input and output electronics on board, and fits easily into a 20-ft (6-m) container.

    I do wish people would be more precise with their Units of measurement.

  3. Gamecock says:



  4. Bloke down the pub says:

    They should’ve asked these guys, they’ve been building them for a while.

  5. ivan says:

    Like all ‘great battery breakthrough publicity announcements’ it is 110% on hype and about 0.1% on details.

    This sounds like the MIT ‘sun in a box’ storage system and about as impractical. At least they are starting in South Australia, the state with all the stupid ‘green energy’ blackout problems and very gullible politicians that will try anything to save face after they demolished the largest coal fired power station and then found it was essential to grid stability.

    I assume overall efficiency will be about 10% but they will never let that figure out, people might see it as the scam it is.

  6. Bill Treuren says:

    time to start decommissioning the coal fired stations. Yeh right.

  7. MrGrimNasty says:

    “accepts any kind of electricity – solar, wind, fossil fuel-generated or straight off the grid”

    What a dumb statement – BS/April 1st radar screeching.

  8. oldbrew says:

    Installations can scale from 5-kilowatt applications out to a virtually unlimited size.

    But like all batteries it costs money and generates nothing.

  9. Graeme No.3 says:

    “Hundreds of megawatts of instantly accessible, easily controllable power should be no problem – all you need to do is add more” WIND TURBINES?? That’s what caused the problems in the first place.

    If it can store 6 times the energy of a lithium battery then Tesla would be….hang on, that’s by volume.
    And just how to you get energy out? Sure you can as silicon melts at 1414℃ but what is its viscosity as the temperature gets near that? Too viscous and circulation slows dramatically.

  10. Doonhamer says:

    When lithium degrades, what does it turn into?
    Is this fission or fusion?
    Heat engine? Nuclear power industry know all about those, and no radiation problem.

  11. oldbrew says:

    Will the world’s biggest solar-powered battery land in Florida?
    Monday 1 April 2019

    Florida Power & Light Company plans to build 409MW of new battery capacity next to an existing solar farm in the region
    . . .
    It claims this is four times the capacity of the largest battery system in operation globally and says its installation will help to accelerate the retirement of two fossil fuel-fired power plants in the area.


  12. phil salmon says:

    Sounds promising.
    Where’s the catch?

  13. phil salmon says:

    Well now it seems it’s bogged down in a legal patent dispute:


    If it gets viscious and predatory like Edison on Tesla, then it suggests we are looking at something real.

    [mod] link says ‘This is a subscriber only article’
    See it here: https://www.energycouncil.com.au/media/7540/new-battery-technology_aust.pdf

  14. phil salmon says:

    The clever part seems to be that the heat energy is extracted as electricity via … light 💡 . Incandescent white hot silicon transfers energy as light to an array of photovoltaics.

    Even if it falls short of saving the world (which doesn’t need saving anyway) it is a wonderful breakthrough that finally, at long last, an alternative has been found to the centuries old steam turbine for turning heat into electricity.

    Could this trick not be applied to nuclear power? Do working fuel rods glow? And even stored waste emitting all that Cherenkov radiation could go on generating some electricity for years.

  15. poly says:

    The fact that they are from South Australia says it all. Failed state led by mini copybook corrupt and incompetent elitists. Intellectually and technically barren.

  16. stpaulchuck says:

    total cost per KWH of windmills and solar is still a multiple of gas and coal fired electricity generation and these batteries will just add more cost to the price.

    All in aid of a non existent “problem”. “Get yer magic Elixir here! Magic beans available just next door as well!”

  17. HEMP is better than lithium batteries

  18. Gamecock says:

    “But like all batteries it costs money and generates nothing.”

    Very succinct, oldbrew. I’m going to use that.

  19. Gamecock says:

    From oldbrew’s link:

    ‘will hold as much power as approximately 100 million iPhone batteries’

    FPL introduces a new metric, units of ‘iPhone batteries.’

    ‘FPL says by deploying energy from the batteries when there is higher demand for electricity, the site will offset the need to run other power plants, reduce emissions and save customers money.’

    ‘offset the need’ doesn’t replace the need. Now, you will get to pay for BOTH. And this will ‘save customers money.’ I’m sure.

    ‘The battery infrastructure will cover 40 acres of land, equivalent to around 30 football pitches, and be able to power 329,000 homes for up to two hours.’

    M’kay, we’re now doing ‘homes powered’ units.

    Covering 40 acres raises no environmentalist’s eyebrows.

    ‘FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy said: “This is a monumental milestone in realising the full benefits of solar power’

    Wut? The benefit is solar doesn’t work alone, so you have to add gimmicks to use it?

    ‘A new report suggests in 2018, three-quarters of existing US coal-fired generation could have been replaced with local renewables such as solar power at an immediate saving to customers.’

    There’s a lot of suggesting going on there. Solar runs less than a third of the day. Savings comes from doing without electricity, I suppose.

  20. oldbrew says:

    able to power 329,000 homes for up to two hours

    Which ‘up to two hours’ of a sunless dark winter evening would that be? :/

  21. Dave Ward says:

    “Sure you can as silicon melts at 1414℃”

    In view of that, I’m a bit concerned about the 2 (very discoloured) copper pipes running away from the base of the unit. Copper melts at 1,085 °C….

  22. phil salmon says:

    Thanks for finding the full (unpaywalled) article from the energycouncil!

    [reply] no patent dispute there we hope 😉

  23. oldbrew says:

    Forbes reports it…

    New Thermal Battery Could Be A “Game Changer” For Storing Renewable Energy

  24. Gamecock says:

    ‘Storing renewable energy’ is a head fake. It accomplishes nothing. And costs a lot of money.

  25. oldbrew says:

    Gamecock – the problem already exists that renewables often generate power, or too much power, at times when it’s not needed.

    Unless or until renewables no longer exist, which looks unlikely anytime soon, we’re going to get attempts to tackle this self-inflicted problem. The question then might be: do such attempts save money or cost money in the long run, compared to doing nothing?

    Where EVs fit into the picture, e.g. overnight charging, is not clear.

  26. Gamecock says:

    “The question then might be: do such attempts save money or cost money in the long run, compared to doing nothing?”

    As you state it, it is a simple business question: can we make money by saving some of this excess production?

    But that is an aside.

    The renewables pushers use ‘storage’ to convince the intellectually challenged that there’s nothing wrong with renewables. “Intermittency can be easily solved with storage.”

    When it comes to storage saving renewables, i.e., allowing deep penetration into grid level electricity production, it can provide nothing more than ride through for a temporary outage.

    Outage potential is infinite. Storage potential is not. Intermittent sources can never be more than supplemental. Unless . . . vastly fewer people. Or acceptance of intermittent supply.

    The erosion of central production will at some point result in the wealthy investing in their own home supply, such as a diesel generator.

    This stuff is what you get when government tries to run a business. Governments make political decisions, not business decisions. Costs will escalate until the enterprise collapses.

  27. oldbrew says:

    They are moving towards charging more at peak times and less at slack times, and offering ‘bribes’ to industry volunteers and others who agree to cut power use at short notice if/when the grid is struggling.

    Of course this juggling itself has costs.
    – – –
    Date: 03/04/19 Dr John Constable, GWPF Energy Editor

    The UK’s electricity network is likely to become significantly weaker within five years, due to falling Short Circuit Levels that reduce the reliability of protection systems designed to limit the geographical extent of supply loss during a fault, and also make it more likely that asynchronous sources of electricity such as wind, solar and High Voltage Direct Current interconnectors will disconnect during a fault. Ironically, Short Circuit Levels are falling because of a rising input from asynchronous sources. A remedy for this problem is unlikely to be cheap. Who will pay?


    Answer: the customers.

  28. Gamecock says:

    “offering ‘bribes’ to industry volunteers and others who agree to cut power use at short notice if/when the grid is struggling.”

    I worked in industrial power cost for over 20 years. Their answer is, “No.”

    Their focus is making widgets. They don’t care about electricity cost. They have other things to deal with. Production schedules, etc.

    BWTM. My plants paid demand charges. Tens of millions of dollars a year. They could change their capacity to consume by taking shutdowns, usually in August. But they wouldn’t do it.

    Because of demand charges, the utility contractually had to guarantee availability. One time, around 1985 in Richmond, VA, they paid us a million dollars because of an outage they had. In the U.S., demand charges and agreeing to cut power use on short notice are absolutely incompatible.

  29. oldbrew says:

    Short term operating reserve (STOR)

    At certain times of the day we may need access to sources of extra power to help manage actual demand on the system being greater than forecast or unforeseen generation unavailability.
    . . .
    Where it is economic to do so, we will procure sources of extra power ahead of time through the STOR service. Providers of the service help to meet the reserve requirement either by providing additional generation or demand reduction.
    [bold added]