The Energy Storage Report 2024

Now available to download, covering deployments, technology, policy and finance in the energy storage market

Bill Gates’ VC investment firm leads US$50m injection into thermal energy storage startup

By Cameron Murray
LinkedIn
Twitter
Reddit
Facebook
Email
Bill Gates founded Breakthrough Energy Ventures and is its chairman. Image: UK Department for International Development.

Thermal storage startup Antora Energy has raised US$50 million from a group of investment firms including Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures to accelerate the development of its heat-based carbon block energy storage system for heavy industry. 

The investment is being provided by Breakthrough, Lowercarbon Capital, Shell Ventures, BHP Ventures, Grok Ventures, Trust Ventures, Overture VC, Impact Science Ventures, and existing investor Fifty Years VC. 

This article requires Premium SubscriptionBasic (FREE) Subscription

Enjoy 12 months of exclusive analysis

  • Regular insight and analysis of the industry’s biggest developments
  • In-depth interviews with the industry’s leading figures
  • Annual digital subscription to the PV Tech Power journal
  • Discounts on Solar Media’s portfolio of events, in-person and virtual

Or continue reading this article for free

Antora says the money, which follows US$5 million of grants from US government bodies in 2020, will help the company “build out their first customer-sited projects and speed up hiring.”

The technology

The California-based firm’s technology works by absorbing electricity from wind and solar into heat blocks of carbon. These are heated to as much as 2000°C.

The carbon blocks can then provide heat, by heating up tubes containing steam or hot air, or they can even generate electricity from their glow being directed onto modified solar PV modules, the company has claimed. Antora says these two discharge modes are operated completely independently. 

In a recent Medium article, the company’s CEO Andrew Ponec wrote that thermal beats all other storage types it looked at in its early stages – hydrogen, batteries, gravitational storage, compressed air, flywheels – by virtue of being cheap, simple and infinitely scalable. 

He claims that carbon blocks are amongst the cheapest storage materials in the world and that the firm has a ‘world-record-breaking solid-state heat engine that converts radiant heat into electricity with only a few micrometres of material and no moving parts’, solving thermal storage’s two main problems. He also reckons carbon blocks have the same energy density as lithium-ion batteries.

Stage of commercialisation and target opportunity

In an interview in January, Ponec said that Antora has a workhorse prototype system of a few hundred KWh but was ‘working hard’ on a delivering a 100MWh pilot system to Wellhead Electric, a developer of natural gas, solar and storage plants in California. 

The company is targeting heavy industry which is the single-largest source of carbon emissions at 30% and has found it difficult to decarbonise due to high heat and power requirements. One example is steel production, which requires temperatures of about 1,500°C.

“Our investors look at this and see a US$1 trillion/year opportunity. We look at it and see a 10 gigaton/year opportunity,” he said.

Other players in the space

This fundraising round is the largest seen in the space since EnergyNest secured €110m (US$130m) in April last year for its similar technology based around concrete, as reported by Energy-storage.news

In fact, the nascent thermal energy storage space comprises a variety of materials upon which solutions have been based. US startup Malta Inc uses a molten salt-based storage solution, Swedish group Azelio’s is based around aluminium while Scotland-based Sunamp uses a phase change material (PCM) for its proprietary technology, albeit that one is a lower temperature storage tech aimed primarily at the residential hot water heating market.

Read Next

February 27, 2024
US$150 million has been raised in a Series B by Antora Energy, a US-based startup with a novel ‘thermal battery’ technology claimed to be suitable for decarbonising industrial processes.
February 27, 2024
Turkey-headquartered lithium-ion and energy storage manufacturer Kontrolmatik Technologies will deploy a 1GWh energy storage project on home soil with financing provided by Chinese energy firm Harbin Electric.
Premium
February 26, 2024
BESS route-to-market (RTM) and optimisation firms in the UK are increasingly looking at a wider variety of contracting mechanisms beyond the revenue-share or ‘merchant’ model, developer-operator Eku Energy told Energy-Storage.news.
February 22, 2024
Renewables developer and operator Arevon Energy has secured US$1.1 billion in debt and tax equity financing for a solar-plus-storage project in California which features a 150MW/600MWh BESS.
February 22, 2024
The government of Queensland has published its official battery strategy as part of the Australian state’s major Energy and Jobs Plan and policies to invigorate its industries.

Most Popular

Email Newsletter