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    I have decided to run this story as it has generated an interesting discussion in our comments section Uli who I consider a leading specialist in energy storage has raised many questions about the viability of the claims being made. I think these questions are important along with the role of the media of accurately representing claims being made when investment is being sort.

    Original Story (edited) 

    by Ben Potter


    1414 Degrees chairman Kevin Moriarty and executive director and chief technical officer Matthew Johnson with a prototype of their silicon energy storage system. Credit: David Mariuz

    Silicon Storage

    An Adelaide company has developed a silicon storage device that it claims costs a tenth as much as a lithium ion battery to store the same energy and is eyeing a $10 million public float.

    1414 Degrees had its origins in patented CSIRO research and has built a prototype molten silicon storage device which it is testing at its Tonsley Innovation Precinct site south of Adelaide.

    Chairman Kevin Moriarty says 1414 Degrees’ process can store 500 kilowatt hours of energy in a 70-centimetre cube of molten silicon – about 36 times as much energy as Tesla’s 14KWh Powerwall 2 lithium ion home storage battery in about the same space.

    Put another way, he says the company can build a 10MWh storage device for about $700,000. The 714 Tesla Powerwall 2s that would be needed to store the same amount of energy would cost $7 million before volume discounts.

    No comparison

    “There’s no comparison. Except for a few specialised circumstances it will make them totally uneconomic frankly,” Mr Moriarty said. “I don’t think it’s dawned on the market yet and it won’t until we get them into a real-world situation.”

    Mr Moriarty is counting on 40 per cent to 50 per cent of the cost of these initial devices being funded by government subsidies because of the unique technology. The device stores electrical energy by using it to heat a block of pure silicon to melting point – 1414 degrees Celsius. It discharges through a heat-exchange device such as a Stirling engine or a turbine, which converts heat back to electrical energy, and recycles waste heat to lift efficiency.

    Pure silicon is a shimmering, blue-grey “metalloid” – a substance that exhibits characteristics of metals and non-metals. A byproduct of smelting metal quartz ores, it is abundant and cheap. It is attractive as a storage medium because it is stable at the 1414 degree melting point, and can hold the heat for a week or two with adequate insulation although 1414 Degree’s devices are designed to charge and discharge daily.

    If the claims stand up at commercial scale the molten silicon storage device could be one of the technological breakthroughs that make it cheaper to store energy from wind and solar farms. This could smooth out their intermittent generation and also help prevent or isolate blackouts from transmission failures during storms such as the one that hit South Australia in September.

    Still, 1414 Degrees is only one of a growing number of companies seeking to push the frontiers of storage technology in Australia and win a role in the the energy grid of the future, which is evolving from one dependent on “baseload”.

    The following are comments from our readers


    The article is a complete distortion of facts. Deliberate or misinformed, who knows? This is one of my comments on this on another facebook link:
    Thermal storage is not suitable for use with photovoltaic solar. Comparing this technology with the Tesla power wall (lithium ion battery) implies it is the same. This is plain and simple misleading. An electric storage with a round trip efficiency of 30% or less is simply not viable. Thermal storage is not electrical storage. You cannot compare one with the other. And this:
    It worries me how this glowing endorsement by the author has a lot of people exited. Some are even talking about investing because of it. It also worries me that the author failed to ask the following questions before publishing the article:
    1. How do you propose to convert the stored heat back into electrical output?
    2. What is the additional cost for the heat to electricity conversion?
    3. What is the expected conversion efficiency given that the achievable maximum is 59% according to Carnot’s law?
    4. Why do you call it a battery when it is just a heat storage device?


    The company is talking about leasing the power storage to windfarms and that is where the story becomes non credible. Wind energy, while the wind is free, still has a cost factor as in cents/kWh. The silicon heat storage with a round trip efficiency of no more then 30% would more than triple the cost of wind power, thus rendering it uneconomical. Also, have they even considered that their storage system with a steam turbine needs permanent staff to run it? It is basically a mini power station and not a solid state battery. If you want to invest in this, go for it, but I give it the thumbs down.

    Forward Projections and Capital Costs

    1. No one does a 150 year forward projection P&L statement for the same reason that no public company invests in Oak plantations.
    2. Lithium Ion Phosphate bulk storage is down to $200/kWh on a system level and expected to drop as low as $120 in the next 5 years. Tesla is $700/kWh.
    3. The TESS price projection is for the energy storage only. Once you add the conversion device to turn it into electricity, it becomes a different story. Here is a link to a new commercially available Stirling engine from China(… ) with a 36% conversion efficiency. I have been to the factory and checked them out. The 25kW unit sells for $30000. This would add another $1200/kWh to your capital cost calculation. I doubt very much that a steam turbine would come much cheaper then this and it would not last for 150years either.


    “This would add another $1200/kWh”

    Wow. For the 10 MWh system that’s an extra $12 million for the cost of 400 Stirling engines. ($1200*10*1000=$12 million, or $30000*400=$12 million.)

    Could we be overlooking something that is known by the company’s chairman, Kevin Moriarty, and by the Australian government’s AusIndustry Accelerating Commercialisation program? Why would they focus on the silicon storage aspect when the cost of Stirling engines greatly dwarfs it? I’ll ask more questions.

    BTW, I found this PDF showing the useful life for Stirling engines at about 5 years, and operating and maintenance cost of about 0.75 cents per kWh. (ch. 5, pg. 6)

    ADD: Perhaps only a small percentage of the storage is outputed at any one time, so much fewer of the 25 kWh Stirling engines are needed.



    BioSolar Update
    Particles from outer space are wreaking low-grade havoc on personal electronics
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