Thermal battery holds 1.2 megawatt hours of energy in a 20-foot box

A company called CCT Energy Storage has just put Lonsdale, South Australia on the map. At the end of March, the start-up presented the very first high-density thermal battery that outperforms its lithium-ion and lead-acid counterparts many times over. The modular unit known as Thermal Energy Device (TED) stores electricity as latent heat, which can be converted back into energy when required.

A standard TED device can store 1.2 megawatt hours of electricity and has a life expectancy of at least 20 years. “After 3,000 operating cycles on the test bench,” says CCT CEO Serge Bondarenko, it shows no signs of deterioration (compared to a lithium-ion battery, which loses 20 percent of its capacity after around 5,000 cycles). “In fact,” adds Bondarenko, “silicon seems to be even better at storing heat after each cycle.”

TEDs accept any type of electricity you add to them – sun, wind, water, fossil fuels, mains powered – and convert and store that energy at more than 12 times the density of a lead-acid battery and 6 times the density of Lithium ion. They can be charged and discharged at the same time, which saves time and energy. Compact and durable, the devices are very low-maintenance and 100 percent recyclable. Perhaps most surprisingly, they’re cheap: about three-quarters the cost of a corresponding lithium-ion setup.

CCT – which stands for Climate Change Technologies – designed the units to be easily scalable and just as suitable for small 5 kW applications as they are for entire remote communities, business districts, telecommunications networks and transportation systems that require “hundreds of megawatts of instantaneous power”. “This is in line with the company’s vision of a safe, sustainable source of energy that can be used anywhere in the world regardless of urbanization, economy or infrastructure.

CCT’s thermal energy devices have a huge impact on the renewable energy industry. Intermittent sources such as sun and wind rely on versatile, long-lasting storage solutions to store additional electricity generated during peak production times. TEDs have the potential to make renewable energy a 24/7 alternative energy source for any location.

Through a manufacturing agreement with the MIBA Group, the new technology will start production for the European and Australian markets this spring. By 2020, production is expected to grow exponentially in volume and scale as negotiations with other countries begin.

Suddenly, the idea of ​​a clean energy future feels a little less remote thanks to a start-up down under with the vision of “providing affordable energy to those who need it most”. The global energy market will never be the same.

Jill Kiedaisch is a regular contributor to Popular Mechanics and has appeared in a variety of conservation anthologies, magazines, and books.

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