By K. Warner
For Metal Tech News 

Shell funds MGA Thermal storage plant

Energy innovator MGA Thermal, Shell pilot renewable power Metal Tech News - February 23, 2023


Last updated 4/16/2023 at 7:10am

MGA Thermal CEO and CTO measure graphite-aluminum thermal energy storage blocks.

MGA Thermal

Erich Kisi, MGA Thermal CEO and professor in materials science, with Alexander Post, MGA Thermal co-founder and CTO, measure MGA blocks in varying capacities.

Green energy startup MGA Thermal and its long-duration energy storage solution rose above a field of dozens of quality applicants to win a $400,000 grant from Shell GameChanger, an initiative sponsored by the global energy giant to support startups and businesses on unproven early-stage ideas that have the potential to impact the future of energy.

"I am excited that Shell can support MGA Thermal's pilot project and their ambitions to enable the storage of renewable energy. We look forward to seeing their progress and to continue lending Shell support and expertise," said Matt McDonald, commercial partner manager at GameChanger.

The GameChanger program grant will help construct a pilot plant demonstrating the Australian startup's energy storage system. The technology promises high energy density, low energy degradation, and modular design for delivering continuous heat and electricity that is safe, cost-effective, sustainable, and high capacity for grid and industrial use.

MGA Thermal's system uses "miscibility gap alloy" (MGA) blocks which can be made primarily of reclaimed aluminum and graphite formed into metal alloy particles that are disbursed throughout a hard graphite-based material.

The blocks are then stacked and enclosed in a fully insulated system.

When energy is absorbed, the encapsulated particles melt while the outer matrix material maintains structural integrity. The solid-to-liquid phase change stores and releases energy at a constant output for many thousands of cycles, which is especially ideal for stabilizing intermittent electricity generation from systems like wind and solar in order to release round-the-clock power into the grid.

MGA blocks can be manufactured as any supporting size, from megawatt to gigawatt hours. The blocks are designed to offer 200-300% higher density storage than traditional systems and are completely recyclable. The stored energy can also be used directly for industrial heat applications or to create "green steam" driving turbines to generate electricity.

Standing at a compact 12 meters (39 feet) long, three meters (10 feet) wide, and four meters (13 feet) tall, the five-megawatt-hour demonstration-scale thermal storage system to be constructed at MGA's factory in New South Wales will discharge up to 500 kilowatts for 10 hours – roughly enough to power 1,000 homes.

Shell's grant, in conjunction with funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, is expected to accelerate the company's pilot plant, which is slated for commissioning in April of this year followed by six months of intensive experimentation to demonstrate storage, charge and discharge capabilities.

Rendering of MGA Thermal storage system with Shell and ARENA logos.

MGA Thermal

Artist's rendering of proposed MGA Thermal's demonstration-scale thermal storage system.

Winning GameChanger funds also establishes the startup as a company to watch in the lucrative green energy space.

"The fact that we have a global tier one major interested in accelerating this, providing their lead technical support globally to us, and of course throwing their brand behind it, is probably worth a lot more to us than the actual funding itself," MGA Thermal's chief commercial officer Mark Croudace told Business News Australia.

"It fills the missing gap to enable renewables to succeed and that's why this long-duration energy storage market is on the cusp of exploding," says Croudace. "There is a raft of companies and technologies aiming to fill that long-duration energy storage void, and I believe MGA Thermal will be one of those companies that will succeed."


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