Thermal battery
The storage medium of EnergyNest is a high performance concrete called HEATCRETE. photo: EnergyNest.

In the global race for energy storage technologies, start-ups seem to be taking the lead.

In cooperation with the Italian oil & gas major Eni, EnergyNest, a Norwegian start-up will build the first thermal energy storage for CO2-free power generation Sicily, Italy.

Around a dozen start-ups globally are busy with the development of highly efficient energy storage technologies for industrial applications; partly financed by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Hasso Plattner, Jack Ma via the investment fund Breakthrough Energy Ventures. 

The objective of these efforts is the effective integration of renewable energies and matching supply with actual demand through smart and flexible storage systems, enabling, for example, solar energy during the night or power from wind turbines during calm.

EnergyNest, led by Christian Thiel, is claiming victory in this arena.

Just a few days ago, Thiel signed a commercial contract for the supply of the first industrial energy storage project with EnergyNest Thermal Batteries. This project, in collaboration with Italian oil & gas major Eni, is located in a refinery on the southern coast of Sicily. 

Says Thiel: "The hype around energy storage technologies is huge, and rightfully so. Already today, we have technologies for industrial applications at hand for sector coupling and true advancements in the energy transition.

"Energy storage is about the entire energy spectrum: The heat market for energy storage solutions has been largely overlooked until now. Unfortunately, many traditional energy companies, utilities as well as energy-intensive industry are still caught in old thinking. This hampers fast progress, true environmental responsibility as well as new profitable business models. We applaud the leadership of Eni to actively adapt new technologies in their business and operations. Thermal Batteries are now on the radar." 

About the Gela project in Sicily

Eni is the first energy company to implement a thermal battery on an industrial scale. In the Gela project, a thermal battery is connecting an existing concentrated solar power (CSP) installation and a steam turbine for power generation.

This installation produces solar energy during the day and stores parts of it in a battery. At night, the thermal battery releases this energy for power generation, a process which up until now has been produced by means of fossil fuels. As a result, the carbon footprint of Eni’s production site is being reduced, and energy management becomes much more efficient.

The thermal battery is scheduled to start operations in the second half of 2020 and will save 60 tons of CO2 emissions per year.

This thermal battery is said to represent a breakthrough technology for the reduction of industrial greenhouse gas emissions.

The market for Thermal Batteries:

The energy research firm Aurora Energy Research estimates the thermal battery market for industrial electrification, power plant flexibilization and industrial waste-heat-recovery at around EUR 300 billion through to 2030.

Just recently, the investment fund Breakthrough Energy Ventures funded the start-up Malta Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts with $26 million. Japanese fund Softbank invested 110 million into Lugano based Energy Vault.

Want to know more about start-ups?

From the digital transition to innovations within the renewable sector, the energy trading sector and looking at the transformation within the generation side of power, Initiate! looks at acquiring new talents and forming new partnerships to create positive change. The Initiate! programme stimulates this change by including all players in the eco-system – all with the intention of catapulting the industry forward. Read more about Initiate! at European Utility Week