Graphite Energy's thermal energy storage unit

A ‘graphite battery’ in Wodonga will be Australia’s first commercial thermal energy storage

When Finland recently unveiled the world’s first “sand battery”, there was speculation that Australian manufacturers would soon be rolling out their own versions, as they looked to burn less gas.

Now, a pet food factory in Wodonga has announced it’s doing just that.

The Mars Petcare facility, one of the largest pet-food makers in the country, will take delivery of a “graphite battery” later this year, as part of a trial to reduce emissions and ultimately save money.

From the outside, the orange container won’t look like much, but experts say the system’s installation is an important moment in the country’s clean energy transition, and such thermal energy storage (TES) facilities will become a common sight over the next decade.

“It will be the first major commercial application of thermal energy storage to displace gas in Australia, so it’s a big deal,” said Dominic Zaal, director of the Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute (ASTRI), which is funded through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

“It will be the first of many. Within 10 years this will be widespread.”

So, how does it work, and what can it be used for?

Water goes in, steam comes out

Like the Finnish sand battery, the Wodonga TES system purchases renewable electricity from the grid when it’s cheapest and converts this to heat through resistive heating (like an electric bar-heater).

This heat is then stored in the graphite blocks at temperatures of up to 900C.

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