In recent years, many climate tech companies have emerged to tackle the challenge of climate change. One such company, supported by Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy fund, is making a difference by creating insanely hot thermal batteries.
Antora Energy, a start-up specializing in thermal battery technology, has successfully launched its initial large-scale system at a facility in Fresno, California. This pilot project marks a significant milestone in transitioning heavy industries away from relying on polluting energy sources.
Antora had raised $80 million from Gates and other investors as of July.
In 2019, the power and heavy industry sectors were responsible for approximately 60% of the world’s CO2 emissions, as per the International Energy Agency. Energy Innovation predicts that by 2030, these sectors will become the primary sources of CO2 emissions in the United States.
Unlike conventional lithium-ion batteries that store electrical energy chemically, Antora’s thermal battery system stores energy in the form of heat. The heat is contained within carbon blocks.
Antora’s carbon blocks can reach temperatures exceeding 3,272 degrees Fahrenheit (1,800 degrees Celsius). By leveraging thermophotovoltaic cells similar to those used in solar panels, the system can convert the stored heat back into electricity. Therefore, Antora’s thermal battery can produce either heat or electricity for power plants, depending on what they need.
Industries such as cement and steel production heavily rely on a continuous supply of heat. Currently, this heat is predominantly derived from environmentally damaging sources like coal and natural gas.
It’s been challenging to supply continuous heat through renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. Renewables are intermittent, which means that they can’t produce energy at all times. And sometimes, renewables produce too much energy, causing the surplus energy to be squandered.
Antora’s thermal battery can solve renewable intermittency. The battery provides a consistent supply of heat and electricity even if renewables are used as the energy input.
Antora’s CEO and co-founder, Andrew Ponec, has expressed optimism about the future of Antora systems in terms of cost competitiveness. Ponec expects that once Antora gets off the ground, its battery system will be cheaper than coal and natural gas heating systems, even without subsidies.
According to The Cool Down, Antora is currently constructing a battery manufacturing facility in the Bay Area. The plant is projected to be finished by 2024. After the plant is built, Antora plans to deliver the technology to its initial customers in 2025.
Image Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), https://shorturl.at/bEV19