Innovative Rock-Based Energy Storage System Commissioned in Italy

  • The Enel Group and Brenmiller Energy Ltd have commissioned an innovative, sustainable energy storage system in Santa Barbara, Tuscany, Italy.
  • The system uses rocks that store excess energy as heat, then releases that heat to generate steam for electricity.
  • The system has a capacity of about 24 MWh of thermal capacity and can be fully charged and discharged in about five hours.

The goal of this Thermal Energy Storage (“TES”) project is to build an innovative thermal storage system in Santa Barbara, which is completely sustainable and capable of accelerating the energy transition. The integration of the TES system with the existing power plant enables Enel and Brenmiller to test the technology in the field, in challenging operating conditions and on a large scale.

The system offers reduced power plant start-up times and greater speed in load variations, which are necessary performance requirements to enable the efficient use of renewable energy. The system can be used to store excess energy produced from renewable sources in the form of heat to offer decarbonization services to industrial customers and to integrate long-term storage solutions with renewable plants.

Brenmiller Energy developed the technology in Israel and supplied the storage system; Enel integrated the system with its Santa Barbara power plant and helped to validate its performance in a real environment.

The TES technology utilizes a two-stage charge and discharge process to provide thermal energy. During the charging phase, steam produced by the Santa Barbara facility passes through pipes to heat adjacent crushed rocks; during the discharging phase, the accumulated heat is released to heat pressurized water and generate steam for electricity. This first-of-its-kind TES system can store up to 24MWh of clean heat at a temperature of about 550°C for five hours, providing critical resiliency to the power plant.

The collaboration between Enel and Brenmiller came about as part of an Italian-Israeli collaboration protocol aimed at accelerating cooperation between Israeli companies and large Italian industries. The project was partly financed by the Israeli Innovation Authority, which supported Brenmiller with 1 million euros in financing.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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