Heat storage systems can cut CO2 emissions by 15% in 15 years, really. Meet the “Brick Toaster.”
Rondo Energy has claimed that its brick-toasting heat storage device, is so cheap and efficient that it makes decarbonization a complete no-brainer across the industrial sector. They must be doing something right because Bill Gates agrees.
25% of all of humanity’s carbon emissions come from industrial energy use. An enormous proportion of that energy goes into creating heat for various industrial processes, like making plastics, or car batteries. That is the place where brick toasters come into play.
The Oakland company Rondo Energy surmises that this is a slam-dunk opportunity to decarbonize in a way that pays for itself spectacularly quick.
“We are at a spectacular moment in history,” Rondo CEO John O’Donnell said in a statement. “Where on a per unit energy cost basis, wind, and solar power are now cheaper than fuel. Not just cheaper than conventional electricity, but cheaper than fuel for heat in most of the world – headed for all the world.”
This means in essence the “green premium,” that had plagued the renewable energy sector, now is no longer a problem. The bottom has fallen out of the price of renewable energy. The main reason industrial heat consumers balked at decarbonizing and changed to clean solutions was the ‘green premium.”
The new barrier to changing to clean energy is that you can buy renewable energy out of the grid at an extremely low cost, right now, but only when the solar arrays are producing too much for the grid to use. There is no way to run a factory 24/7 on intermittent energy delivery unless you can store the energy up.
Rondo Energy is building “brick toasters” that store cheap renewable energy as high-temperature heat, ready to be deployed throughout the day. Rondo states that industrial clients will begin saving money compared to the old, dirty, fossil-fuel burning processes immediately.
The system at its heart isn’t very complicated. Converting electricity into heat is something that happens at 100% efficiency in every toaster or hair dryer, says O’Donnell. Rondo has developed a toaster-style system to heat up “blast stoves,” similar to the ones the steel industry uses for cyclical heat storage.
These stoves are made up of plain ol’ clay bricks, sometimes with a bit of sand thrown in, but not anything specialized or even exotic. There is nothing toxic, nothing that decays over time. The bricks will still be stored just as well in 40 or 50 years when chemical batteries have gone through several generations of intricate recycling processes.
The company claims it can pull the voluminous heat back out at an extraordinary 98% efficiency, resulting in dirt-cheap industrial heat storage, that costs “about one-fifth the cost per unit of energy stored as any electrochemical battery,” according to O’Donnell. “On the outside, it looks fairly boring. It’s only possible today because of supercomputer computational fluid dynamics, finite element analysis and AI system controls. It is something that is very simple, but was very interesting and complicated to design.”
The first generation of Rondo brick toasters are optimized for low cost, super-fast deployment and scale, and are capable of holding heat up to 1500 C (2,732 F) which O’Donnell says can cover approximately 80% of industrial heat requirements globally. Down the line, there is the realization of covering somewhere around 92% of all industrial use cases, by reaching 1800 C (3272 F) which brings steel making into its sphere of influence.
Rondo confides that its first customers have no interest in going “green” or advertising their decision. This is strictly a bottom line taking advantage of the arbitrage opportunity that intermittent clean energy presents. In its present form, it’s a great arbitrage opportunity.
Right at this moment, Rondo is bringing this technology to its first customers and will be in the USA soon. That’s straight-up economics, solar PPA versus fuel prices. There is no contest.
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