This week marks a significant milestone for the heat-battery industry as California-based startup Antora Energy reveals plans to establish its first large-scale manufacturing facility in San Jose. With an established track record in producing modular heat batteries, this new factory promises to substantially boost production capacity, potentially catalyzing the transition of heavy industries away from fossil fuels. While my recent Tech Review article covered the announcement in depth, today’s newsletter delves into the broader implications of Antora’s breakthrough and the industry as a whole.
When discussing decarbonization, the focus often centers on electrifying everyday activities, such as transitioning to electric vehicles and induction cooktops, and upgrading heating systems. However, a significant portion of global carbon emissions arises from less conspicuous sources: industrial manufacturing processes that require exceptionally high temperatures, often exceeding 1,000 or even 1,500 degrees Celsius.
Presently, the primary source of this high heat is the combustion of fossil fuels, contributing to 20% of global emissions, as per the International Energy Agency. Antora Energy and other innovators in the heat-battery sector are dedicated to creating efficient, cleaner solutions to meet the critical need for high-temperature heat.
We’ve previously explored thermal batteries as a unique approach to decarbonizing heavy industry. While each company employs slightly different methods to generate and store heat, the fundamental concept remains simple: renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, are harnessed to heat relatively low-cost materials, such as solid carbon blocks (as utilized by Antora), which are insulated until the stored heat can be discharged for manufacturing purposes. Antora’s forthcoming factory will manufacture modular heat batteries tailored to the specific requirements of clients.
During my conversation with Justin Briggs, Antora’s co-founder and COO, he emphasized his vision for the “reindustrialization of the American heartland.” He believes that by providing cleaner heat to industries traditionally dependent on fossil fuels, heat batteries can facilitate the growth of these sectors while simultaneously reducing emissions.
This perspective is intriguing, as it often remains overshadowed. Climate technologies extend beyond their technical capabilities and their impact on the people employed in these industries or those directly affected by the technology.
Briggs posits that individuals already skilled in hot manufacturing processes won’t require extensive retraining to use Antora’s product, making it an appealing option for companies looking to capitalize on clean-energy funding. This surge in funding is driven in part by government policies like the Inflation Reduction Act, which allocates funding to expedite the transition away from fossil fuels.
Industry experts are closely monitoring the market and are enthusiastic about what the future holds, though they stress that the industry is still in its nascent stages. Blaine Collison, an executive director at the Renewable Thermal Collaborative, a coalition focused on decarbonizing industrial heat, believes that heat batteries are on the verge of substantial initial scaling.
This optimism arises from the versatility of heat batteries and their capacity to address multiple challenges simultaneously. These batteries can alleviate grid pressure by storing excess renewable energy while providing a cleaner source of heat to industries traditionally reliant on fossil fuels.
Antora Energy’s announcement of its new manufacturing facility is a clear testament to this trend. Rondo Energy, another heat battery startup, already operates its manufacturing facility and plans to increase production capacity. Additionally, German company Kraftblock has partnered with firms like Pepsi to replace gas-fired boilers with heat batteries, reducing emissions from the production of items like potato chips and canned beverages.
While heat batteries may not be the sole solution to the industrial heat problem, they undoubtedly represent an exciting field that warrants close attention as they continue to evolve and transform the energy landscape.
By Impact Lab