Newcastle-based clean energy company MGA Thermal has secured federal government funding to develop a 5 MWh pilot plant to demonstrate steam generation from stored thermal energy with the ability to deliver a new form medium-term energy storage.
Through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the Federal Government has pledged $1.27 million to Newcastle University spin-off MGA Thermal to help fund the construction of a 5 MWh thermal energy storage pilot project in the Hunter region of New South Wales.
The $2.85 million project will showcase proprietary MGA Thermal Miscibility Gap Alloy (MGA) technology, a material that co-founder and CEO Erich Kisi says will play a critical role in the country’s energy transition because it will modernize existing systems. thermal power plants with renewable storage technology.
“If current industry sentiment and the impacts of climate change tell us anything, it’s that we can’t wait any longer to transition to renewables,” he said.
“While conventional storage technologies such as batteries play an important role, a complementary, grid-scale dispatchable energy solution is needed to ensure a seamless transition to nationwide renewables.”
Located at MGA Thermal’s facilities in Tomago, Kisi said the pilot plant will have charge and discharge capacities of up to 500 kW and will help bring the company’s technology from lab to market.
The company’s patented thermal energy storage blocks, about the size of a large brick, consist of small alloy particles embedded in graphite-based blocks enclosed in a fully insulated system. Once heated, the alloy particles, which melt and solidify over several thousand cycles, can store heat for days with minimal energy loss.
“It accepts energy in the form of electricity generated in a renewable way, which ultimately heats the blocks,” Kisi said. “And they sit at around 600 degrees Celsius, storing heat almost indefinitely. It loses very little heat over time. And then the energy is distributed by producing steam, high temperature, high pressure steam for power generation, or we can derate it to meet the more difficult to reduce markets like process heat in the industry.
The pilot plant is expected to be commissioned in December this year, with Kisi saying it is the next step in commercializing MGA Thermal’s technology which “can be scaled up to several hundred times larger than the planned 5 MWh pilot plant.
The company said the plant will provide performance data on charge and discharge behavior, fluid dynamics and temperature distributions, and validate medium- and long-term thermal storage efficiency in a practical system. It will also provide a tangible demonstration of MGA technology for potential customers.
With significant investments in flexible, dispatchable capacity needed to support the adoption of variable renewables, especially as thermal assets retire in the coming decades, ARENA Chief Executive Officer Darren Miller said that MGA’s technology has the potential to be cost-effective mid-term storage. technology due to its energy density, low energy degradation, modular design and low cost.
“The transition to electricity is going to require a variety of storage technologies capable of discharging over a time range from hours to days,” he said. “MGA Thermal’s new approach could make a real difference in the mid to long term storage category, supporting hydrogen and pumped hydro.
“With potential deployments for industrial heating end uses, MGA Thermal could play a valuable role in decarbonizing the power grid and heavy industry, which often require high temperature heat and steam for their manufacturing needs. .”
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