MGA Thermal blocks
australian startup to scale graphite block storage technology

Australian startup to scale graphite block storage technology

Australian clean energy company MGA Thermal has been awarded AUS$1.27 million (USD$900,000) from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to scale up its thermal energy storage technology; graphite-based blocks that absorb and store thermal energy from renewable electricity or industrial waste heat.

The award will help fund the installation of a 5MWh medium duration thermal energy storage pilot to demonstrate the generation of steam from stored thermal energy, showcasing charging and discharging at up to 500kW.

How MGA works

MGA ThermalDr. Alexander Post, CTO and Erich Kisi, CEO of MGA Thermal. Image credit: MGA Thermal

The company’s specially designed Miscibility Gaps Alloy (MGA) blocks absorb and store thermal energy made from renewable electricity or from industrial waste heat.

MGA’s consist of small particles of an alloy embedded within graphite-based blocks, which are enclosed within a fully insulated system. Electrical heating elements superheat the alloy to an operating temperature of 400-700℃, while the graphite matrix contains the molten alloy.

The MGA blocks can store heat for periods ranging from hours to days with minimal loss of energy. Heat exchangers use a transfer gas to absorb heat from the MGA blocks, with the heated gas or fluid suitable for industrial heat applications or to drive a steam turbine to generate electricity.

This energy creates steam to run turbines or creates direct heat for use in industrial applications.

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MGA Thermal suggests this solution can be used to repurpose coal-fired power plants with thermal storage, delivering cleaner baseload power while preventing the closure of these plants.

“Solutions like ours make it possible to retrofit existing thermal power plants with renewable storage technology,” stated Erich Kisi, co-founder and CEO of MGA Thermal. “While conventional storage technologies like batteries play an important role, a complementary, grid-scale dispatchable energy solution is required to power a seamless transition to renewables nationally.”

Australia’s energy storage requirements

According to ARENA, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has indicated that Australia‘s national electricity market will need more than 60GW of dispatchable generation and storage by 2050 to support the uptake of renewable energy.

This means that developing Australia’s energy storage technology and solutions is critical to meeting these plans.

Darren Miller, CEO of ARENA explained in a statement, “MGA Thermal’s unique technology has enormous potential to support the uptake of renewable energy. The novel approach could make a real difference in the mid-to-long-term storage category, supporting hydrogen and pumped hydro. With potential developments for industrial heating and uses, MGA thermal will play a crucial role in decarbonising the electricity grid and heavy industry.”

According to MGA Thermal, the pilot project will provide valuable performance data such as charging and discharging behaviour, fluid dynamics and temperature distributions, and will validate the efficacy of mid-to-long term thermal storage in a practical system.

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