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Thermal energy storage startup Antora raises US$150 million for industrial decarbonisation


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.

The company’s product delivers heat stored in blocks of carbon material, but it can also deliver electrical power using a patented ‘thermophotovoltaic’ (‘TPV’) technology. TPV converts light emitted from high-temperature heat sources into electricity using cells similar in design to solar photovoltaics (PV).

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Antora claims that not only can TPV cells be mass-produced, but that their efficiency for converting heat into electricity exceeds 40%. Meanwhile, the cells are lightweight, solid-state devices with no moving parts, and their modular design means efficiency and cost are independent of scale.

The heat component can reach temperatures in excess of 1800°C, which can meet the requirements of sectors such as cement and steel production, often named among the ‘hard-to-abate’ industries for emissions.

Industrial activities account for around 30% of global emissions, making them the single biggest contributor, with about half of that represented by industrial heat.

According to a report from the global trade association Long Duration Energy Storage Council (LDES Council) published late last year, the application of renewable energy-generated heat and electricity storage to the industrial sector could reduce industrial emissions by roughly two-thirds. A report commissioned by the LDES Council a year before in 2022 focused on the potential of thermal energy storage to effectively provide several hours of storage capacity, which it described as being crucial for global decarbonisation.

Antora joins a growing roster of global thermal energy storage companies seeking to deploy their solutions into the sector, most of which claim their technologies can deliver energy and power at costs competitive with lithium-ion, while providing heat in particular more effectively than electrochemical batteries.

Big name investors join Breakthrough, Grok

The Series B round, combined with a 2022 Series A, brings the startup’s total attracted investment to more than US$230 million. The company first featured in during that round, with Bill Gates-founded sustainability-focused venture capital group Breakthrough Energy Ventures among investors. It also received some early-stage support from the US government and the state of California.

The latest Series B was led by Decarbonization Partners, formed by BlackRock and Singapore-headquartered asset manager Temasek. BlackRock has to date invested in a number of downstream battery storage project developers, while Temasek’s involvements in the space have included investment in US ‘multi-day’ battery startup Form Energy, and lithium iron phosphate (LFP) manufacturer Our Next Energy (ONE), also based in the US.

Also taking part in the round were new investors, including a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources and the Nature Conservancy, along with existing investors including Breakthrough Energy, BHP Ventures and Grok Ventures.

The investment will allow Antora Energy to scale up its manufacturing and commercial deployments, with the company having begun producing a commercially available thermal battery product as well as announcing the development of a California factory to produce them at scale.

Initial units are expected to roll off the production line at the 50,000-square-foot factory later this year. Antora CEO and co-founder Andrew Ponec claimed the Series B’s closing represented an investment in “US jobs, manufacturing, and leadership in the clean energy transition,” as well as in the company itself.’ publisher Solar Media will host the 6th Energy Storage Summit USA, 19-20 March 2024 in Austin, Texas. Featuring a packed programme of panels, presentations and fireside chats from industry leaders focusing on accelerating the market for energy storage across the country. For more information, go to the website.

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