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Opinion

Out with lithium and nickel, in with salt and bricks?

Demand for heating at industrial sites around the world is rising. How can demand be met sustainably?

Think of energy storage, and what do you think of? Probably lithium and nickel. But what about salt, and bricks? One of the big challenges for the energy transition is storage. It’s a particular problem for industrial-scale buildings and areas that need a lot of energy. Currently about half the energy demand is heat, and electric batteries are (most of the time) the ones providing it.

Where you need heat, you need a big battery. Or do you? On the Interchange: Recharged, David Banmiller explores the other options that are emerging. Professor Robert Barthorpe is a lecturer in the Dynamics Research Group in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield. He joins David to discuss the new technologies that are opening up possibilities when it comes to providing heat to homes in the UK. There are plenty of options on a residential scale, but what about industrial?

In California, a company called Rondo is approaching the issue of heat delivery to commercial-scale buildings with a novel solution: they’re using bricks to store energy at half the cost of green hydrogen or chemical batteries. What’s the technology look like, and how scalable is it? David talks to CEO John O’Donnell to find out.

Finally, another innovative way of storing energy in the form of heat comes from Norwegian-based company Kyoto. What they call the Heatcube is a structure of vertical tanks filled with molten salt, that are charged by renewable electricity at periods of low cost. Installed at the site where heat is needed, the Heatcube stores it at 500c for use when required. Camilla Nilsson is CEO at Kyoto, and she joins David to explore the Heatcube and the trends in demand for heat across global industry.

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