Energy storage company 1414 Degrees has opened a new factory in Adelaide southern suburbs where it has started building its first commercial system.

1414 Degrees 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 ten times cheaper than lithium batteries. The South Australian company moved into a 3,000sqm factory on the site of the former Chrysler /Mitsubishi engine plant late last year. The Lonsdale plant housed one of the largest iron foundries in the Southern Hemisphere in the 1960s and 1970s and was closed in 2005.

1414 Degrees recently began building its first 10MWh TESS-IND system and expects to have at least two sites for installation in the first half of 2018. Work on the first 13.3MWh test cell for a 200MWh TESS-GRID system is expected to begin soon. The company is 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 also received $1.6m in funding from the South Australian Government’s $150m Renewable Technology Fund, which has already allocated up to $20m towards Tesla’s ‘world’s biggest’ lithium-ion battery being built in the state’s Mid North. The grant will fund half of a $3.2m 1414 Degrees project at the Glenelg Waste Water Treatment plant in Adelaide. The project involves building a 0.25MW/10MWh thermal energy storage device that holds heat generated from the combustion of biogas produced on site.

According to 1414 Degrees Executive Chairman Dr Kevin Moriarty, SA Water already generates electricity to power its operations from the biogas as it is produced by wastewater treatment processing at the site. Dr Moriarty adds: “The 1414 Degrees technology will instead burn the biogas and store the thermal energy, so the heat and electricity can be harnessed to better coincide with SA Water’s operational needs and times of high electricity market prices.”

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 degrees Celsius 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.

“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% or more efficiency from the renewable sources,” Dr Moriarty says. “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. 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.”

South Australia leads the nation in the uptake of wind energy and rooftop solar, with renewable sources accounting for more than 40% 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 18 months.

In January 1414 Degrees also received approval in-principle to submit an Australian Stock Exchange listing application. Dr Moriarty says 1414 Degrees is hopeful of listing on the ASX in April. He said the IPO would plan to raise at least $30m 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 says.

The 10MWh systems would use about 20 tons of silicon and be targeted at industries that require electricity and heat. It is likely the first units will be sent to New South Wales and used in large greenhouses. The first 10MWh “off-the-shelf” unit is expected to be commissioned in the coming weeks.

“Our target is industry seeking to reduce energy costs or emissions,” says Dr Moriarty. “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.”

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. According to Dr Moriarty, 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 says 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 says. “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.”

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. It has entered into agreements with partners in Australia and overseas. Distributors so far are all engineering specialists with an interest in refining the technology for particular market segments such as energy efficiency for poultry farming and displacement of gas as a source of process heating.

“This means 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 says. “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.”