Matt and Sean revisit thermal energy storage (TES) and interview Andrew Ponec, co-founder and CEO of Antora Energy, about what they’re doing.
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Well, I question Matt. Yes. It’s that Matt of undecided with Matt Ferrell, which gets all these conversations started. How are you doing,
I’m doing great. How about you?
I’m doing well. It’s been a sudden spring into spring here in New York City. Yeah. Where temperatures skyrocketed. I understand. Up in your neck of the woods.
It actually hit 90.
Yeah. It got up until 90 degrees. That’s the week before it was like 40, 50 degrees. Yeah. Yeah.
I was recently traveling with my family and on the way back from our trip to Washington, DC where it was a balmy 85 degrees on the days we were there. I turned to my son and said, when we’re getting home, we’re putting your air conditioner in your window.
His room was reaching almost 85 degrees in by 10 30 in the morning, uh, when we got back. So, yeah, and so I put in the AC and immediately the temperatures dropped, and now his room is too
Maybe a little, maybe a little
chilly. Climate change
folks. Hold on. It’s gonna
get worse before it gets better.
Yes. Strap yourself in,
Which is one of the reasons why we talk about what we talk about here on this channel. We talk about sustainable storage solutions for energy and also energy production techniques. And normally we jump off of Matt’s most recent videos into our conversation, but this week we’re doing things a little differently, aren’t we?
Yes, we are.
We’re doing it very differently. We’re doing things
differently because Matt decided to be lazy. No, that’s not true. That’s right. Matt, do you wanna explain a little bit as to why we are currently waiting into a non-existent video discussion?
Well, one thing, it’s like, I’m, I’m going on a big trip, so I’m plan, I’m going to the UK to do a whole bunch of stuff, and so in preparation of that, Sean and I are recording a bunch of episodes.
Getting ahead. So of course, we’re now out of sync with undecided, but also I get a chance to interview a lot of people from around different industries that I interview them. Sometimes on background, sometimes it’s, I’m thinking of doing a video around, uh, that, a topic that they currently work in, but I don’t work them into a full-time video at some point.
So it’s like, this is an interview today. I, we did an interview with the CEO of Antora Energy. Which is a thermal energy storage system that’s based out in California, and they’re a really cool company. They have a really interesting kind of technology that they’re developing for thermal energy storage, and I haven’t had a chance to make a, a video around what they’re doing yet, but I thought it would be fun to share that full interview here on the show.
should prove interesting and just to share some insights into what leads into this conversation that Matt had with this. Gentleman from the Energy Company, some comments on some previous episodes that are related to this idea like these from Still to be Determined. Number 1 52. This comment by Daniel Boger, who wrote the Technology Connections YouTube channel, did a video a while back where he talked about how in the summer he uses his house like a battery and cools it down fairly cold at night when it takes less energy to cool the house.
Then he doesn’t need to run his AC during the day. This seems like the kind of the other side of the same coin for this technology, but on an individual scale that doesn’t require remodeling. There was also this from Seabert 90 who wrote, what I like about district heating is that you can throw in multiple heat sources in a single distribution network.
Like I know from Vienna, Austria, they use heat from waste incineration, biomass, geothermal, and heat losses of gas power plants, which raises their overall efficiency in the summer. They also use that access heat for district cooling with absorption refrigerators.
Yeah, I think you meant excess, not access.
But that is true. And here I am reading. Yeah. I am Ron Burgundy. Right off of the prompter without even.
Yeah, I, I love both of those comments, especially the one about technology connections, cuz you have to shift how we think about heat because there are things that we do in our daily lives that we can just shift how we’re doing things just by it’s cooler overnight.
So why are we not just like super cooling our homes and letting that cool kind of just like, Slowly go away over the hot part of the day, and then you’re saving so much more energy by how you’re heating and cooling your home. And the same thing with our water heaters. Our water heaters are basically just giant heat batteries inside of water.
So it’s like we don’t have to have them heating all the time or heating at certain periods of the day. We can be a little smarter about how we’re doing this and take advantage of how heat flows and how heat works. That’s a very smart approach. Yeah. There were
also other comments from an earlier video.
This one goes back to January 25th, 2023, our conversation about how a brick and rock battery is changing energy storage. There was this from the aquatics who wrote similar technology has been used in the glass industry for a long time. We call them checker packs. The structure they are in are called regenerators.
The exhaust of the furnace goes through them, heats up, and then we switch directions and the intake combustion air comes through the checker packs to get preheated, saves tons of gas. It’s, I like that they’re being heat that is captured. And then is preheating something that needs to be at a temperature that is far greater than it will ever get in the preheating stage, but every little bit helps.
So that’s a great use of residual heat. And there was finally this from, what were you gonna
say? I was gonna, it actually makes me think of ERV systems on homes, energy recovery, ventilators on homes like I’m gonna have on my new house where it’s, it’s taking the, the warm inside air and as it’s exhausting it out to bring in fresh air.
That warm air is heat preheating the cool air that’s coming in so that you don’t lose all that heat that you’ve, you’ve pumped inside of your house to keep it nice and warm. It’s a very similar concept just at a industrial scale. Yeah. Which
is also what Matt Gorman Smith is talking about in the last comment we were gonna share, where he writes that 1500 degrees Celsius air would still be useful for steel making or higher, higher
Applications, you’d preheat the charge to 1500 Celsius, then finish it off with much less gas, electricity. So there’s applications across industries here of capturing, storing. Reusing residual heat or excess heat and applying it in different ways. This leads us directly into Matt’s interview with Andrew Ponec from Antora Energy.
They have this kind of interesting approach using carbon bricks to store incredibly high temperature heat and extract it in a couple of different ways.
Alright, so just to kick things off, I’m being joined by Andrew Ponec, who’s the CEO and co-founder of Antora Energy, who’s a thermal energy storage system.
They’re bringing something to market for thermal energy storage, which I’ve been fascinated by, have done a bunch of videos on, on my channel. So as soon as I heard what they were doing, I just had to talk to you. So thank you so much for joining me today.
Well, thanks for having me on. This is gonna be fun.
Um, I’d like to kick things off just a little, learn a little bit more about you specifically. Cause I’m curious. How did this all start for you? Like if you go way back, like high school, college, like what drew you to where you are today?
Yeah, well, you know, I, I grew up in Oregon. I grew up really loving, being outdoors, loving the environment.
And it was actually in, in middle school and high school, that I learned about climate change. And it was, it was definitely a, a big moment for me where I, I felt like I found my purpose, you know, I, I knew that that was a problem I wanted to work on solving for the rest of my life. And, you know, I, back then, you know, I was having fun making all sorts of little contraptions.
You know, I would make, you know, solar concentrators and wind turbines and all, all this sort of stuff, uh, uh, as a hobby. And, uh, had a great time doing that. I, I didn’t really have any, Idea that I would, uh, be an entrepreneur or anything like that, but I knew I wanted to work in those areas. I loved science, engineering, math.
Mm-hmm. Although, I, I have to say, I didn’t really know what engineering was at the time. You know, there was no engineering class, but I knew I loved at least science and math and, and building things. Right. And so I, I, I chose to go to Stanford in for my undergrad in, in part because they had a wonderful energy program.
They had so many different classes, not just on the technology sides of energy, but. Thinking about policy and economics and all that. And I, I thought that was gonna be really important. So I had an absolute blast coming, coming to Stanford, taking some classes about energy. I very quickly got into a, a, a class that worked on electrical engineering and its applications to, you know, the, the energy trans or, or the energy shift and, and decarbonization.
Uh, it was a class called Green Electronics, which was pretty fun. And. Very quickly got, I involved in a, a, a small project in that class that was to make modular level power electronics for solar panels and spun that out into a company within, uh, a couple of years at, uh, of being at Stanford. So it was quite a whirlwind, uh, first couple years getting, uh, outta the house.
I, I read that you dropped out of Stanford to start the company. Is that true?
I did. I did. Yes. Definitely. You know, I, I sometimes have people ask me like, do you think you made the right decision? I’m, I’m very confident I do, and I’ve, I’ve had people ask like, Students say, do you think I should drop out?
And I say, if you’re having to decide, you should probably stay in school. Like I felt completely compelled, like there was no way I was gonna stay in school rather than pursue this idea. I, I was a hundred percent committed.
Right. And that was Dragonfly? Was that Dragonfly? Yeah. Uh, okay. And that ended up getting rolled into, what was it?
SunPower. That’s right. Okay. Yeah. And so after that you went back to Stanford, I’m assuming, and then finished out that. And then now you’ve started Antora, why Thermal Energy storage. That’s my first question is like, what drew you to that as the solution? Did you look at other options that were out there?
Like what drew to that specific one?
Yeah, probably one of the most fun periods of time I’ve, I’ve ever had was the process of figuring out what I was gonna do next. And, and it was not clear at the beginning that it was gonna be thermal energy storage. So, uh, you know, I kind of, the, the fundamental assumptions that I had, you know, after having been at SunPower, I saw how cheap solar was gonna get.
I saw the trajectory on, on wind as well. It was clear there was gonna be an abundance of clean energy, but that was only gonna be available some of the time. You know, solar, when it’s sunny wind, when it’s. And so, uh, I, I knew that we’d have to do something to convert all of that, that new opportunity, this, this cheap clean energy into all of the other things that we, we need energy for, that we need to decarbonize.
And the, you know, my, myself and, and, and one of my two co-founders, Justin, we, we looked at everything. We looked at every type of way that you could convert this electricity into something useful for decarbonization. A lot of those were mo, most of those were energy storage systems of various kinds, you know, compressed air, you know, batteries, you know, flow batteries, hydrogen gravitational energy storage.
Actually a lot of things that, uh, you’ve done some really wonderful, uh, videos about on, on your channel. That’s awesome. And, you know, through that process, we built little, you know, techno economic models of, of each of them tried to understand what are the fundamental constraints. What, what, what might, might we be able to do to improve that in the future?
Um, and the, the one that just kept coming back up was thermal energy storage. It had a combination of attributes that we thought were unbeatable for a lot of areas of decarbonization and, and that’s what we, uh, eventually settled on.
So it sounds like you did a lot of due diligence in researching what was out there before you decided on thermal energy
Yeah. I would say I spent the better part of two years looking at all of those Wow. Different options before settling on thermal energy.
So one question I have for you is, as I’ve been learning about all this stuff and. Thermal energy storage feels like I keep having that face palm. Why are we not doing this already?
Pretty much everywhere. Cause it seems so obvious once you kind of learn about it. Why aren’t we doing this
everywhere already? I love that question. That is exactly the right question. Because like when you look at the Yeah, we, we had to second guess ourselves when we were looking at all this of just like, yeah, why, why, why aren’t we doing it already everywhere?
And there are a couple reasons for, for that. The, the, the first is just that we haven’t. Variable renewable electricity, uh, uh, that, that’s really, really cheap before, so that, that is new. That’s within the last decade that solar and wind have gotten so cheap. Mm-hmm. You know, before that there wasn’t much of a, a purpose to turn electricity into, stored heat, and then deliver that heat because the starting point, the electricity was so expensive that it would never be competitive.
Fossil fuels as a source of heat. So what shifted is the electricity variable? Electricity. And that’s a really important point. Variable electricity is now so cheap that it can compete directly with fossil fuels as a source of heat. And, and, and that wasn’t, that wasn’t there before. The, the other thing is thermal energy storage in the past was pretty much Soval associated with the concentrating solar power.
And so, you know, there was lots of, you know, molten salt energy storage or, or or other similar systems for concentrating solar. But they were all having the input energy be, be sunlight, concentrated sunlight or, or some other, uh, type of heat rather than electricity. And again, that’s because there was no source of cheap electricity in the past.
That you would’ve used to charge up a thermal battery like that. But one of the, the outcomes of that whole industry of thermal energy storage having been based out of, of C S P in the past was that nobody was thinking about temperatures higher than you could get with sunlight concentration. And so once we came at the problem, you know, because of a new driver, which was this cheap electricity, it allowed us to look at the problem kind of from first principles and, you know, not follow the same path that everyone had done in C S P and look for what is the best material if you’re starting from electricity.
So that kind of brings us to what your technology is. Could you walk through at a high level as like, what is it, like,
how does it. Yeah, so the basic inputs and outputs are, you know, we have a box and variable electricity comes in and consistent heat and electricity come out. And so it’s, it’s a giant buffer for that variable renewable energy.
And inside the box you have a lot of graphite. Uh, so this is carbon. Same kind of stuff you’d have in pencil. But th this carbon gets heated electrically just by resistance heating. So this is omic heating. You just run the electricity through carbon, it gets really, really hot. It’s storing the heat in the, the, the sensible heat change.
So just every degree increase in temperature from the electricity coursing through it is, is, um, you know, storing more and more energy. And then on the, the flip side, to get that energy out, we use radiative heat transfer. So there are three types of heat transfer. You know, conve, conductive, convective, radiative.
Uh, most thermal energy storage uses either, uh, well, most of it really uses convective heat transfer. You know, you like blow some air or you pump some metal or molten metal or, you know, something like that. Uh, we went in a very different direction, which is, which is radiation, which is light because it’s incredibly simple.
You can get rid of a lot of the moving parts. A lot of the ways that thermal energy storage has broken down in the past is from that convective heat transfer and, and just let the light go and, and transfer the heat for you. The key though to that is radiative heat transfer only works at very high tempera.
Radiative heat transfer scales with temperature to the fourth power. So you double the absolute temperature and you get 16 times as much radiative heat transfer. So at, you know, low temperature is like a few hundred C. It’s a really weak mechanism of heat transfer. But once you get above a thousand C, it’s a really, really powerful way to move heat within the system because all those early systems at low temperature, cuz they were in the CSP industry, radiative heat transfer was a bad idea once you got rid of the temperature limitation cuz you’re starting with electric.
Suddenly radiative heat transfer is the obvious way to move heat within a system like this. Okay,
so at, at, in a nutshell, I was standing in front of one of your things. It’s, it’s basically just a big metal box. And you, you’re storing essentially light inside. So it’s a, it’s a kind of holding the light from the heat.
How does it actually work when you’re letting it out? Like how do you capture it coming outta that box?
Yeah, that’s right. So you, you can think about it as, as just three levels. There’s the, the metal box, like you said, inside that there’s a bunch of insulation so that the heat doesn’t leak out when you don’t want it to.
And then inside that is the, the carbon, the graphite that’s actually storing that, that heat. Right. Uh, so to get it. What, what we basically have is an insulation shutter, so you can just open the insulation and that will allow the very high temperature, bright light that’s coming off of this carbon to suddenly kind of beam out of the system to whatever you needed that, that heat for or, or that light for.
It sounds okay. It sounds so simple. I know it’s not simple. I know there’s a lot of engineering that goes into this, but it sounds incredibly simple that you’re just literally like letting the light outta the box, shutting it off when you don’t wanna lay it, let out the box and you’re using, was it T P v Thermo photo, like Thermo Photoable take cells to capture the, to turn it into electricity.
One of my questions for that is everything I’ve. Says that they’re not as, um, energy efficient, that they’re not great efficiency for converting into electricity. Are yours different or is there a different approach you’re taking to it that makes it more efficient?
Yeah. Well, maybe I’ll just start with, you know, you have this beam of light and you can do two things with it.
One is, If you just need heat for an industrial process, which we use an enormous amount of fossil fuels to create industrial heat, then you just need the industrial process. You don’t need T P V if you want that back as electricity, which you do in many cases. Then yeah, we’re, we’re, we’re, we’re shining light on a photovoltaic cell.
It’s the same basic physics that is used in, in solar pv. But you’re just getting the light from a different source, which is this hot carbon. So yeah, efficiency is, is a great place to, to start talking about like, is this, is this a smart thing to do? Or, or not? The first part of that is you’re always gonna have losses, converting heat back to electricity.
This is just, you know, fundamental thermodynamics. There’s, there’s a limit to how much you can do. Carnot efficiency is gonna limit you and in practice you’re gonna be well below the cardinal efficiency in, in any case. So the, the, the first thing. It’s driven by economics. It’s never gonna be the most efficient way to store.
The question is, is it economically favorable? And the answer that we’ve seen is in a lot of cases, yes, even if you’re at relatively low efficiency, like 50% or even 40%, if the input electricity was this otherwise wasted. You know, solar and wind that was coming at, at cheap abundant times, and you’re then delivering it at a time when electricity is really scarce and really valuable.
It’s okay to have some of that loss as long as your, your capital expenditure to build your thermal battery was really, really low. So if you have an expensive battery, that’s low efficiency, that’s a really terrible product. If you have a really cheap battery that’s really efficient, obviously that’s, that’s perfect.
That, that’s, that’s great. But we don’t have that. Mm-hmm. And so we’re in kind of one of the corners, which is really, really cheap, but less efficient.
Right. Yeah, it’s, I I, I’m glad you brought that up cuz one of the things. I see it in comments on YouTube videos that I put together. A lot of people hammer on efficiency, like it’s the ultimate thing to discuss.
It’s the thing that determines if it’s good or bad. Well, lithium ion batteries, they’re 95% efficient or 2090 2% efficient. Why would you wanna do this? It’s like, well, lithium ion batteries probably cost 10 times the amount of money as that would cost. So it’s, it’s money. Drives the decision making here.
Yes. So it’s, I’m, I’m glad you brought that up. I kinda look at it as, as kind of a, a red herring a little bit. It sounds like you kind of agree with that kind of point of view of it’s not the end all, be all, it’s just part of the equation, but not the ultimate.
Purveyor a absolutely, and and a good example of that is in our grid today, we have a lot of power plants that are fueled by natural gas.
Some of them are combined cycle gas plants that are over 50% efficient. Some of them are peaker plants that are like 25% efficient. We still install tons of both of them, even though one is twice the efficiency of the other, just because the simple cycle ones are really, really, really cheap. And so they’re just serving a different niche within the grid than the the combined cycle.
so it, you can get the, you can get heat out and you can get electricity out. So it’s kind of a, I don’t wanna say it’s platform agnostic or something. That’s not the right way to put it, but it’s, it, it can, you can fit pretty much any need you need to for what you’re putting it into, but I’m assuming your target market.
Initially is gonna be after industry, the high heat industries, things like cement, you steel, making, things like that. I’m assuming that’s where you’re focused.
That’s right. So the, the first product that we’re deploying is a heat only product, so one that is just delivering industrial heat. The second product is one that does heat and or electricity depending on what the customers need and needs are.
And one, one thing that I’ll mention, Why it’s so important to have heat and electricity in, in, in the future coming out of this product industry uses both. I mean, if you, if you look, there’s almost no Indus major industrial process that uses either only electricity or only heat. Almost everything uses uses both to varying degrees.
About 10% of US electricity is generated from combined heat and power plants. At industrial sites, it’s like industry is already very used to using things that provide both heat and electricity, uh, to, to their site. So this is a, a massive, massive business. But the, the key thing about having both is that flexibility to choose when you’re gonna do electricity versus when you’re gonna do heat is a big economic advantage, cuz there’re gonna be certain times in the future.
Let’s say we have a very high renewables penetration grid. There are gonna be times in January, you know, when it’s not very sunny and it hasn’t been for a few days, that electricity is gonna be super, super valuable. And with this sort of system, you can, you know, divert all of the, the stored energy into generating electricity during those times.
There might be other times in the summer when energy’s plentiful, you know, there’s tons of solar that might have otherwise been spilled. At that point you can be shoving it into your thermal battery and taking out as electricity and. And so having that flexibility on the economics makes a system that can do electricity and heat more valuable than one that does just one or the other.
How, how, how we’ll get, I wanna get into the inside of the box in just a second, but like, how do the costs of this look like, like compared to, I’m, I’m thinking like, like one of these steel making plant, like whatever they’re using for their fuel, if it’s natural gas, whatever they’re using to heat right now, how does this look competitively for costs for them?
Like, will it save them? It’s like, that’s the big question. I’m assuming they’re all looking at
Yeah, so it it’s the, the economics of the system are very dependent on where the input energy is coming from. So there’s certainly some portion of the cost of the delivered. Let’s say we’re just doing a, a heat product for a moment.
Some portion of the cost of the delivered heat comes from paying back the CapEx. Capital expenditure of the unit itself. But in most cases, the bulk of the cost comes from the intermittent electricity that you’re feeding into the unit and, and that is very geography dependent. So many of our early markets are in places like the US Midwest, where you have an enormous amount of wind that’s been built out over the last decade.
And in some of those areas, there’s actually too much really for the grid to handle in certain areas. There are places on the grid in Kansas or Texas where electricity prices are. 30% of the time, which is just mind boggling to think it’s nuts. And, and so in, in places like that, this can be insanely competitive because you’re taking, you know, what’s essentially a, a free electricity and then turning it into heat, only having to pay back the, the CapEx of the, of the battery.
Now in other places, you know, if you were to do this in, you know, Massachusetts right now, maybe there isn’t a, a surplus of renewables in those. That’s probably not gonna be a market for us for some time, unless somebody’s willing to pay a premium to decarbonize. But we’re probably not going to be directly competing against fossil fuels in every market right off the bat.
depends on the scenario then. Yes. Okay. So let’s go inside, inside the box, these carbon blocks. What are they like? Like what, how, how do you, what are they made of? How do you source, oh, I, obviously they’re made of carbon, but like how, how are they made, how do you source them? Like how do they, what is the theoretical, like highest temperature that you’re able to store in this, in this battery?
Yeah. I, I’ve learned so much and loved learning so much about the, the whole carbon and graphite industry over the, the last few years. Carbon and, and graphite are one of the biggest industrial intermediates that you’ve probably never thought much about. Graphite and carbon are essential in the way we produce both steel and aluminum.
So, uh, in steel making, for instance, a huge portion of our steel comes from electric arc furnaces, electric arc furnaces use giant graphite rods that are, uh, have energy running through them to, to heat up the steel where they’re actually creating like lightning at the, at the bottoms of these rods, you know, going to the steel, the ends of those rods get up.
2000 C or more. And so Graphite’s one of the only materials you could use for something that, so a, there’s a huge industry to make graphite. That all just gets consumed in the process of steel making. Similarly for aluminum, we make something like 30 million metric tons a year of carbon blocks. For the aluminum industry because the way we make aluminum is we dissolve aluminum oxide into sort of an aluminum salt, and then we do electrolysis and we run electricity through it.
The only material that can survive that those conditions is carbon. And so they actually use carbon as one of the, as the anode for the aluminum, uh, producing process. And that gets, gets consumed in the process. During the electrolysis, the oxygen coming off, the aluminum oxide combines with the carbon in the block and goes out as CO2.
And so because these blocks are consumed, the more aluminum we make, the more carbon blocks we have to make. So anyway, thi thi this is just to say there’s a massive industry that’s existing that makes. Giant carbon or, or graphite blocks. And that’s no accident because we wanted to choose a material that already had a massively built out supply chain for whatever material we were gonna use, because a lot of starters fail because they think they have the greatest material.
But then if they have to do all of that work themselves, they’re not gonna scale fast enough. Yeah. So this is, this is a, a little bit about graphite. As you can see, I’m a, I’m a big fan of, of this. Yeah, it,
it’s one of the, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve talked to a lot of companies, battery startups, things like that, and they’re like, we have the best battery in the world.
It’s like, well, how, what, what’s the materials in it? It’s like all the stuff that’s in it are very hard, hard to source, and there’s no, uh, supply chain established for it. So it’s like they’ve got a long road ahead of them if they wanna start building this out to scale. So you really are just tapping into an existing supply chain market that already exists.
It’s already capable of producing this stuff for. Yes, at whatever scale you’re gonna need into the future.
Yeah. I think some, something like 1% of the global carbon and graphite industry would enable like a Terawatt a year of energy storage deployments using our system. So like, oh my God, we can get the massive scale with still being a drop in the bucket in this existing supply chain.
Oh my God. So do you, that’s incredible. You have pilot projects going on right now, is that.
Yeah, we’re almost ready to turn on our first pilot project, which is in the Central Valley of California at a a customer site company named Wellhead Electric. And we’re very excited to be turning on our first system,
and it’s a, as a heat only system, that’s what’s gonna be used
as a heat.
So it’s, it’s a prototype of, of the heat only system, of the heat only product. But we actually have the ability to test both the electric discharge portion and the heat discharge portion, but we’re only doing the electric discharge portion for internal testing purposes because the first product will be the thermal only.
But we have the ability to do both on that unit, partly just to show that we can, uh, which is an important part of our, our long-term roadmap, to be able to take the same unit and get either heat or electricity on.
Speaking of that long-term roadmap, I did have a question around that. Where do you see in going over the next three to five years, like how do you see this rollout happening?
How do you see it expanding?
Uh, Yeah. So the, the, the next couple years are gonna be all about getting to market with that first, you know, heat only product. Um, largely in the areas that are absolute best economics for something like this, where we’re very competitive against fossil fuel. So this would be, you know, west Kansas or, you know, it’s a place that has a ton of excess wind.
You know, we’re gonna be delivering to an industrial heat process, you know, the next couple years after that. So, you know, through from kind of 2025 to 2027 is all gonna be. Expansion, you know, throughout the US and maybe North American market with that heat product. So not just going after the, the absolute, uh, you know, cream of the crop as far as, you know, best places to do this.
But really getting into, you know, a across the board anywhere where there’s pretty decent economics we wanna be deploying and reducing fossil fuel usage during that time is also when we’ll be piloting the, the unit that can do both heat and electric. And so at the end of about a, a four year cycle here, we should be ready to start deploying in, in large numbers the heat and electricity product.
So it’s kind of a, a one-two punch over the next four years of that. Gotcha. Are there
any partnerships that you can talk about, or is it still kind of like, Too early days to talk about that kind of stuff.
Uh, there, there are a couple that we’ll probably be able to talk about soon, but I’ll, I’ll just say, you know, there, there’s the type of partnership that is gonna be really important mm-hmm.
For this is to partner with those that can produce the variable renewable electricity that would, you know, charge these systems up. So that’s very much on our mind. We want to be able. Uh, find either existing assets that have a lot of curtailment or negative electricity prices or new units that are being built where we can essentially improve the economics of the plant as a whole by saying, we’re willing to take the drags, we’re willing to take the worst priced electricity that your system will ever produce, give it to us.
We don’t care when it comes because that’s our whole point we’re, we’re energy storage. And then you can sell only the, the high value electricity, uh, to the grid. And so that we think will actually allow significantly more deployment of solar and wind in places that otherwise would’ve been capped because the, the penetration was already really high in those areas.
How, how is the, like I always like asking this question of everybody, like what’s the reaction that you’re getting as you’re bringing this to market? Because from the outside looking in, you look at the major industry, industry players and utilities. You know, steel makers and stuff like that doesn’t seem like an industry that wants to necessarily go carbon neutral or to go clean.
Do you see that shifting? Do you see that there’s a change there, that they do want to go clean and they’re, and they’re receptive to that message, or are they just focused on the bottom line? They only care about the money. It’s like,
what are you saying? It, it’s been an incredible shift over the last two years.
You know, if, if you’d asked me that question two years ago or May, maybe three years ago, I would’ve said, yep, it’s a hundred percent bottom line. Nobody cares whether it’s, you know, clean or, or not. Just like, show me the. Now we are getting a totally different response, which is of course people still wanna do the, you know, have the, have the numbers be good.
Yeah. But people are willing to, you know, look at technologies that are an earlier stage. People are willing to try something that’s out of their comfort zone because they really do care about beyond just the numbers. Doing the right thing for the planet, or at the very least, if you’re cynical, doing the right thing for, you know, the, the, the company’s, uh, or people’s perception of their, of their industry or, or, or their company.
So, one way or another, people really do care about this, and that is not, that has not been how it’s been for, you know, many years. That’s
awesome. So for thermal energy storage is another kind of general market question I have for you on your take on this since I talked about how it’s like the face palm, why are we not doing this already?
What do you think the scale and the size of a thermal energy storage market is gonna look like? Because obviously it’s not the solution for everything. It’s not like you’re gonna be getting one of these for your house because it’s not gonna work for something like that. But like how do you see this being for like market scale?
Like how big of a player is it gonna.
Yeah. Uh, you know, I’m obviously biased. I mean, I, I, I spent a few years trying to figure out what I thought was gonna happen and, and this is what I, this is what I, what I thought. But, but I’ll, I’ll still say like, I’ve, I’m increasingly convinced that this is going to be the solution for industrial heat.
Full stop. Like every, everywhere that we use industrial heat, you’re gonna, the cheapest way to do that in the future is gonna be to have variable renewable electricity and, and thermal energy storage. I, I certainly believe that Anto is gonna be the, the leader of the pack of the many companies that are doing this for a variety of reasons, but I have no doubt that that is gonna be how we decarbonize industrial heat.
There’s nothing else that comes close from an economics perspective to thermal energy. When it comes to delivering that, that quantity of heat,
what are the three things that keep you at up at night or worry you about this energy transition and energy storage? Like what are the three things that kind of keep you awake?
I, I think the, the, one of the biggest things that we need to solve and, and everybody in this market needs to solve is, uh, the financing. You know, the, the, the, the flows of money that are gonna have to come into this industry to, to build out all of the, all the solar, all the wind, but also all of the electrical energy storage, lithium ion storage and, and thermal energy storage that’s gonna be needed.
Is is mind boggling. I mean, these are, these are huge flows of money and you know, we, we have a pretty good roadmap that was developed over the last decade or two by solar and wind, just showing how you can get from a niche player in the energy industry to something that really is doing hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars of, of deployments globally.
And, and so I think we can do that, but we need to shorten the time. It can’t. 20 years from now that, you know, a, a really big finance player says, oh yeah, if I want to get a, a guaranteed return on some capital, one of the safest things to do is to go in and, you know, put the money in a thermal energy storage system.
That’s where we need to get long term to, to make this energy transition happen. So it’s something we spend a lot of time on. Some of the solutions to that are engineering solutions. Some of it’s just we need to show that this system absolutely bulletproof, it’s gonna be very reliable. You know, very bankable that that’s how we’re gonna get access to those capital flows.
But a lot of it’s also, you know, non-engineering stuff. It’s understanding the markets, understanding the, the types of. Agreements that we’re gonna have with off-takers, with electricity suppliers, so that you’re reducing the risk to a financier of the project as a whole, not just the technology that’s being provided by Antora.
So this is a, you know, probably if there was one thing that, that. I don’t know if it worries me, but that I, that is a, a huge undertaking for us and everyone else is like, how to get to that point that this is a, a turn the crank financing operation. What’s
the, what’s the one thing that you’re most
I am incredibly optimistic because of the number of wonderful companies and smart people that are flooding into this space. Energy storage in general. Decarbonization in general, thermal energy storage in particular, like, it’s, it’s so. Inspiring to see how many people are, you know, quitting their jobs at Google and Facebook and stuff like that, and saying, I am all in on clean energy.
This is what I wanna do with my life. I, I think that’s how we’re gonna get to the solution here. I love that.
That’s why I make the videos I make, I’m inspired by what people like you are doing. It’s like, that gets me so excited for the future. Is there, is there anything we haven’t touched on about your technology and your company and what you’re doing that you’d wanna
Well, I I, I, I didn’t fully answer your question about T P V and efficiency earlier, and that was all right. Yeah. Unintentional. So, but I, I, I, I feel like I, I. From my own personal sense of pride, I wanna be the kind of person that fully answers questions that are asking me. So, um, you would ask, I’m not, that wasn’t a politician’s answer to try to, you know, skirt around it.
Um, you’d ask about like, what’s, what’s the efficiency of TPV? Yeah. Is it good or bad? You know, what is an’s efficiency? Is it good or bad compared to other options? So, I talked a little bit about the economics, like what, what efficiency is needed in, in various applications, but let’s talk about the actual efficiency.
So a TPV is pv, I mean it is a photovoltaic device that that takes in photons and and outputs electrons. Typical solar photovoltaics are about 20% efficient, and even more than that, the efficiency limits. For a single junction at least, solar photovoltaics the Shockly Chrysler limit is about 33%, so you can’t do better than that.
Now if you ask like, why can you not do better than 33% with any even, you know, perfectly imagined single junction photovoltaics. The reason is because there’s a huge number of photons that don’t have enough energy to create an electron in the semiconductor. So these are photons that came at you from the sun.
They don’t have enough energy. They just go right through your semiconductor. They don’t get absorbed because they don’t have, uh, energy above the band gap. So this is a big loss mechanism. You know, I’m very familiar with this from, from my background in solar. We can do something in T P V that’s really unique that you can’t do in solar photovoltaics, which is we can recycle any of the photons that we didn’t like, that we couldn’t convert.
So our, just like the sun, our hot graphite is emitting some good photons. Photons that will generate electrons and a bunch of bad photons along with it that are too low energy. So rather than losing them, just like in solar, they don’t get absorbed. Bio photovoltaic. But we put a really good infrared mirror on the back of our cells, which just turns those photons right around, sends ’em right back to the graphite that they came from, where they get reabsorbed.
So that energy, rather than being lost is recycled within the system. And this is, this is crazy. Like if you’re talking to any solar engineer, it’s like, what if you just didn’t have to worry about the losses for below bang up photons? It’s like, wow. Well that make, makes my job a lot easier. And that, that’s basically what, what Thermo photovoltaics can do.
And the, the result of that is we’ve already demonstrated over 40% efficiency, um, wow. A single junction thermo photo photovoltaic, which again, in solar world is actually like fundamentally disallowed by the Shockly Chrysler limit. But in Tpv, cuz you can do this recycling. It’s absolutely possible and we expect to be over 50% in the future.
So, wow. It’s a very efficient way to convert heat into electricity. You know, I mean, if you compare, you know, the largest steam turbines in the world are usually around 40 or slightly over most steam turbines that are a little smaller in the thirties. Um, so we already have a photovoltaic cell that’s a better heat engine than a steam.
And that’s after only just a couple years of work.
I was gonna say, we talked, we talked about how like the EF efficiency is kind of a red herring, but this is actually where efficiency is actually amazing here. It’s like that you’re, you’re already competitive to steam turbines and you’re expecting that to get even better.
That’s, that’s incredible. I love the fact that you can reflect the basically heat energy right back in and that you don’t need. And that’s so in that double use scenario, then that extends how much heat you’re able to get out of the entire thing. Cause you’re, you’re taking what you need for the electric.
Generation and then the rest can stay in there as heat. That’s right. Okay. Wow. That’s, that’s, that’s unable. I, I love this. Absolutely love this.
I’ll, I’ll say, you know, we, we weren’t the first people to think of this actually. Uh, uh, an advisor of us of ours is a guy named Dick Swanson, who is one of the, the, you know, kind of founders of the solar industry.
He founded, founded Sun Power. You know, he was doing this all the way back in 1979. I. And he realized that you could do this sort of reflection process and get very high efficiencies, but that was at a time that solar PV technology was really, really rudimentary. It was just, just getting off the ground.
Mm-hmm. And so they didn’t have the kinds of materials and techniques that we have available to us now, but it was already seen back then that there would be a tremendous amount of promise in, in this sort of way of doing things. I’ll also just mention you, you know, you, you could do this back, you can reflect photons back to the sun too.
And in, in a really strict sense, you could, you could say that your efficiency is hotter or is higher if you were able to make sure those photons went directly back to the sun. Like it’s not a, it’s not a closed system with the sun and so like nobody’s gonna give you credit for having given the sun back a few photons.
And so like, that’s the fundamental difference between T P V and, and PV is nobody cares if you make the sun hotter, but it absolutely matters that we keep our carbon hotter in, in our.
Thanks for calling out that it, this has been going on this research and the knowledge of doing stuff like this has been around for a long time.
That’s something I, I also like to hit on is it takes time to bring these things to maturity sometimes because it’s, it’s not that we don’t know how to do it, we just may not know how to do it as efficiently, or there might be one little missing piece that we’re waiting for and then something happens that just unlocks all that stuff we already knew.
Yeah. So we. This is a call out to anybody that’s listening and watching this. You just have to be patient sometimes with the development of these technologies. Yeah. So, so, so it sounds like we have all the pieces in place at this point to make this a really viable option.
But thermal energy storage as a whole, like all the pieces are in place for this to be the solution for industrial decarbonize. Right.
So if, if you’re looking at that like hockey stick curve of growth, we’re right at the beginning of that hockey stick.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Awesome.
Well, thank you so much for your time.
I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me and giving me all the details about your technology and what you’re doing and yourself as well. It’s fascinating hearing about your background
as well. Absolutely. Yeah, no, thank you so much. This was really fun. I appreciate the conversation and, and again, big, big fan of the show.
So excited to keep watching. Thank you to
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