AGL to study thermal energy storage at Torrens Island

Torrens Island Power Station (Torrens A)
Torrens Island Power Station (Image: Shutterstock)

Electricity company AGL Energy and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) have announced a feasibility study to investigate the viability of using a thermal battery to power a steam turbine at AGL’s Torrens Island Power Station in South Australia.

The $1.01 million thermal battery feasibility study—one of the first of its kind in Australia—will be led by AGL and supported by ARENA through a $422,582 grant.

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The study will research whether a thermal battery can power a 200MW generating unit at Torrens B Power Station for eight hours, reducing the station’s reliance on gas and lowering costs and emissions. If the study proves to be successful, large manufacturers may also be able to use thermal batteries to decarbonise industrial processes requiring heat.

AGL chief operating officer Markus Brokhof said the thermal battery feasibility study demonstrates AGL’s commitment to fast-tracking decarbonisation and investing in innovative technology and energy solutions.

“This is one of the first feasibility studies to look at how a thermal battery could reduce costs and lower emissions for gas-fired power stations.

“Future studies will also look at how to replicate and scale thermal batteries, allowing them to be rolled out as an energy solution for commercial and industrial customers requiring heat,” Brokhof said.

“It made sense to trial this emerging technology at Torrens Island, where plans to transform the site into an industrial energy hub are already underway with the construction of the 250MW Torrens Island Battery and the adjacent 210MW fast-start Barker Inlet Power station, operational since 2019.”

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the project represents the first thermal energy storage study that will be led by Australia’s leading private investor in renewable energy.

“AGL’s study comes at an important time when we need to look at all options for renewable energy storage. As thermal power stations close, there could be an opportunity to retrofit the sites as we head towards net zero emissions,” Miller said.

“Given the potential long lead time and geographic constraints of other storage technologies, alternative technologies such as retrofitting existing power stations with thermal energy storage could be a viable solution to add to the mix and address Australia’s medium duration storage requirements. It also provides an opportunity to extract further value from existing infrastructure.”

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Over the next 12 months, AGL will work with two manufacturers to establish the technical and commercial feasibility of the chosen preferred system:

  • Kraftblock (Germany): Utilising synthetic pellets comprising up to 85% recycled material as the heat storage medium to achieve operating temperatures of up to 1300°C
  • MGA Thermal (Australia): Utilising proprietary Miscibility Gap Alloy (MGA) technology as the heat storage medium to achieve operating temperatures of up to 760°C. MGA Blocks are a purpose-invented and used in Thermal Energy Storage Systems (TESS) which deliver continuous high temperature heat or electricity that is safe, low cost and high capacity.
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