Next Wave of Renewable Energy Storage Featuring Hot Sand and Bricks

A container of glowing embers surrounded by brick

by | Mar 14, 2024

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In the quest for a sustainable energy future, the challenge of integrating renewable energy sources like solar and wind into the grid has been paramount. These sources, while abundant and clean, suffer from intermittency – their energy is not always available when needed.

The Rising Stars of Thermal Energy Storage: Sand and Bricks

Two promising areas of research and development in this field involve the use of heated sand and specially designed bricks to store thermal energy. These materials can be heated to high temperatures using surplus renewable energy when supply exceeds demand.

Sand batteries capitalize on the ubiquitous and cost-effective nature of sand, heating it to high temperatures to efficiently store energy. This stored heat can be used to generate steam, which in turn produces electricity, offering a practical solution to the intermittency problem of renewable sources.

Similarly, superhot brick batteries utilize specially designed bricks capable of withstanding extreme temperatures. These bricks can then release the stored heat over time to generate electricity, offering a potentially scalable and cost-effective energy storage solution.

Trailblazers: Rondo Energy and Polar Night Energy

Rondo Energy and Polar Night Energy have emerged as pioneers in the field of energy storage, each taking a unique approach to harnessing excess renewable energy.

Rondo Energy has introduced a groundbreaking Heat Battery system, which utilizes electric heating elements to convert electricity into high-temperature heat stored within thousands of tons of bricks. Capable of reaching temperatures up to 1,500°C, the Heat Battery can deliver superheated air or steam to power a wide range of industrial processes. Its scalability, modularity, and high energy density make it an attractive solution for industries aiming to decarbonize and reduce operating costs. A notable milestone for Rondo Energy is its collaboration with Calgren Renewable Fuels in California, marking the Heat Battery’s first commercial operation and showcasing its potential to significantly lower carbon emissions and production costs in biofuel manufacturing.

Across the globe, Polar Night Energy has embarked on a collaboration with Loviisan Lämpö, a Finnish district heating company, to deploy an industrial-scale Sand Battery in Pornainen. This project aims to reduce CO2 emissions in district heating and introduce a flexible new technology for heat production. By utilizing crushed soapstone instead of traditional sand, the Sand Battery benefits from improved heat conduction and retention, supporting Loviisan Lämpö’s efforts to meet heating demands more sustainably and efficiently. As an added sustainability bonus, they are acquiring this crushed soapstone from Tulikivi – which is a byproduct of manufacturing for their heat-retaining fireplaces.

Towards a Sustainable Energy Future

The innovations by Rondo Energy and Polar Night Energy represent significant steps forward in addressing the renewable energy sector’s challenges. By providing scalable and efficient solutions for energy storage, these technologies pave the way for greater adoption of renewable sources, contributing to the reduction of global carbon emissions. As the world continues to seek sustainable energy solutions, the advancements in thermal energy storage stand as a testament to human ingenuity and the relentless pursuit of a cleaner, more sustainable future.

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