Brenmiller Energy commissions thermal energy storage demonstration project


From pv magazine USA

Thermal energy storage developer Brenmiller Energy has finished commissioning a bGen thermal storage-based co-generation station at the State University of New York (SUNY), Purchase. It is expected to slash around 550 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year.

The project was developed along with the New York Power Authority and partially financed by a grant from the Israel-US Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation. Brenmiller intends to hand over the system to the university after training in mid-January.

The company’s thermal energy storage system essentially uses crushed rocks to store the energy from renewables or the grid, Gideon Sharir, managing director, US, at Brenmiller Energy, told pv magazine USA. The system heats this energy to up to 1,200 F (648.9 C), via internal heaters, and stores it until it is ready to be discharged on-demand in the form of clean steam, hot water, or air, said Sharir.

The SUNY system is part of a combined heat and power system. The project charges using electricity via embedded electric heaters and waste heat from the microturbine’s exhaust, and discharges to heat SUNY Purchase’s recreation center, which is one of the campus’ most energy-intensive buildings.

The project, which “charges” using both exhaust gas and electricity, is a demonstration site that showcases the full array of thermal energy storage capabilities, including its ability to charge with electricity and recovered heat, according to Sharir. It is distinct from the other projects in Brenmiller’s pipeline, which are designed to charge using only electricity from renewables or the grid. As a demonstration project, the SUNY system is relatively smaller in size – 450 kW/400 kWh – although Brenmiller’s other projects typically range from 10 MWh to 100+ MWh.

Turning over the operation of the project is a huge milestone for the company, said Avi Brenmiller, Brenmiller’s chairman and CEO.

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“The benefits of our bGen, once demonstrated through this project, could enable broader adoption of our thermal energy storage systems in New York and across the U.S.,” Brenmiller said.

Thermal energy storage can play a massive role in the clean energy transition, according to Sharir.

Industrial heating demand accounts for about 12% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Because thermal batteries can reach extremely high temperatures at a cost that is competitive with natural gas, and are mature and reliable, industrial manufacturers are increasingly looking at them as a decarbonization solution, he said.

“As these technologies continue to gain traction, the thermal energy market is expected to yield trillions of dollars by 2040,” Sharir added.

However, the technology does face certain challenges to scaling up, including complex and outdated grid policies and supply frameworks, he said. On the one hand, market structures must be updated to take advantage of the benefits of thermal energy storage to reduce stress on the grid. On the other hand, regulators must allow thermal energy storage to participate in wholesale markets and access spot prices, he said.

“Overcoming both of these barriers will ensure that [thermal energy storage] can provide flexibility to the grid and cost-effectively enable industrial decarbonization,” said Sharir.

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