A quarter of all energy humans use comes in the form of heat for high-temperature industrial processes. Industrial heat has long been considered "difficult to decarbonize," but a new class of thermal batteries promises to harness renewable energy to the task. I talk with one of the entrepreneurs involved.
What a terrific podcast. The concepts are fascinating, the market opportunities are as big as anything the energy world has seen so far, and John O’Donnell is exceptionally knowledgeable and articulate.
Highly instructive. For the first time, I feel a sense of hope for humanity as we try to conquer climate warming.
Not sure if Dr Volts takes requests or where to add them, but I’m hoping for a deep dive into Canada’s recently announced 2023 budget billed as Canada’s response to the US IRA, perhaps with an interview of someone from the Canadian Climate Institute or the David Suzuki Foundation.
Us old solar thermal folks always installed thermal storage.
Anyway, good stuff. Perhaps, if reason might prevail in rural America, some coupling new heat-intensive industry with wind/solar farms could "short circuit" one of the objections to directly harvesting the wind and sun. The objection being that solar farms in particular actually decrease local employment by laying off tractor drivers and other ag biz supply chain workers, while maintenance hours on the solar panels are minimal.
At this point, I am not sanguine about reason prevailing in the resident activists and local and state government response to them in rural America. But I would really like to be wrong!
We really need that surplus of renewables to actually get built; there don't seem to be many places in the USA where this is the case, but you mentioned a few. And it seems the charging of the heat will require such big chunks of grid capacity that any spare capacity will be gone after one or two projects if they are at all remote from the VRE generation. Not insurmountable, but the mandarins of the grids do not seem to be "skating to where the puck will be," an apt phrase.
I wonder if it makes sense to put district steam grids on this. Denver, in particular. Supposedly CO is curtailing wind and utility solar a bit already. But that may be due to transmission constraints and inflexible baseload coal plants, not under-utilization in the metro area. District heat is not a constant all year load, but Xcel owns the transmission from the plains, some of the VRE generation, and that steam grid. This would be a more efficient utilization of "surplus" VRE than making H2 to inject into the gas grid. And no H2O consumption.
But the PUC gets a lot of conflicting input and "skating to where the puck will be" is a very tough call for the regulators.
Before anyone scolds me, yes we should be deploying HPs faster because of the 300% efficiency improvement, and with low-temperature storage, and with demand response. But from what I can see, there are many building owners who would rather pay extra per Btu for "clean heat," versus absorbing the capital expense of converting from steam to low/medium temp HW and finding places to install HPs, and getting dinged for new peak demands, or maintaining gas backup, etc.
"There are processes where if they get a half-second interruption in their energy supply, it takes a week to restart the process."
Seems almost inconceivable.
Inspiring company and interview. Would like to hear more about the ‘box’ and its insulation.
I think this was one your best podcasts so far. Maybe another one with Harvest Thermal. They are doing the same for home heating.
The thing that I Iiked about this was that Rondo Energy brings a solar farm with it to power its thermal storage system. Mr. O'Donnell does not go to where there is renewable energy, because, if you can do solar in Sweden, then you can do solar anywhere.
This sure seems like something that would scale to a small grid system for both heat and electric generation, like a small community - or even a small regional cooperative, here in the US or especially elsewhere in the "developing" world.
Sincere question…The term “battery” was used by saying “thermal battery”. I thought by definition, a battery was a chemical energy storage device. All other forms of energy storage use phrases such as “thermal energy storage”, “hydro energy storage”, or “geothermal energy storage”.
Am I mistaken or is any energy storage device a battery?