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Is melting silicon a good way to store energy?

The+IPO+funds+will+be+used+to+construct+and+install+TESS-IND+10MWh%2B+units+like+this.
The IPO funds will be used to construct and install TESS-IND 10MWh+ units like this.

The IPO funds will be used to construct and install TESS-IND 10MWh+ units like this.

Image from 1414degrees

Image from 1414degrees

The IPO funds will be used to construct and install TESS-IND 10MWh+ units like this.

James Hanlon, Business Journalist

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While there is a global push for the development and adoption of renewable energy alternatives, there has been fierce discussion around the problem of intermittent supply with this kind of power source.

Adelaide powerhouse 1414 Degrees may have developed an effective solution – storing electricity as latent heat.

Enter the Thermal Energy Storage System, or TESS. Announced in December 2016, TESS, in essence, is a large battery. Electricity is converted to heat and stored in molten silicon at the toasty temperature of 1414 degrees Celsius. The energy stored in TESS can be ‘recovered’ as power.

1414 Degrees has already produced an operational proof of concept prototype, capable of recovering the heat as energy in a traditional Stirling engine. The scalability that 1414 Degrees wants to achieve, that being a device capable of storing enough energy to run a city or an industrial park, has not yet been proven possible.

Executive Chairman Dr Kevin Moriarty is a dab hand in the energy and resources sector. He has held executive positions in multiple ASX-listed companies, has overseen international mining projects, and has published academic papers on matters of sustainability and climate change.

On the back of strong support from tech enthusiasts, Dr Moriarty hoped to raise upwards of $50m in their Initial Public Offering, but after lacklustre subscriptions, their investment goal was downgraded to $12.5m.

In a video announcement, Chief Technology Officer Matthew Johnson assured investors that this amount would be enough to meet their primary development goals. The IPO had raised $16.3m at 35c per share when 1414 Degrees made its debut on the ASX on September 12.

However, it was hard going. Their first day of trading saw their share price drop almost 35%, from 22.5c to 12.5c. Dr Moriarty told Fairfax he believes investors are wary of 1414 Degrees because they didn’t fully understand the potential of the technology.

“The company has a very strong future based on its products and patience is required as the company installs and proves its products,” Mr Moriarty said.

Dr Tanya Urmee, a Senior Lecturer in Renewable Energy at the School of Engineering and Energy at Murdoch University, agrees that demand for renewable energy is slowly improving, but that the true efficacy of new energy storage solutions can take years to become clear.

“We haven’t had (significant) improvement in energy storage in the last 25 years.” Dr Urmee said. “There is lots of new research going on and in the next 5 or 10 years we may hear something.”

She highlighted that until there was greater demand in general for renewable energy and associated storage systems, people were likely to be wary of investment.

“When the demand increases, when more people use it, the cost will be reduced. It may have a better payback in a few years’ time.”

 

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Is melting silicon a good way to store energy?