How we will store energy in the future will be key for a successful energy transition and the decarbonization of the economy. Without efficient, cost-effective storage systems, it will be almost impossible to move away from fossil fuels and towards a clean energy future. Above all, stationary, long-term storage solutions are needed to strengthen the resilience of electricity grids and to be able to use a larger proportion of fluctuating energy sources such as wind or solar energy. The aim must be to be able to provide a reliable energy supply for the grids and/or industrial activities. And part of an alliance that is hoping to find a potentially revolutionary solution to this problem is the small Canadian silica sand company Homerun Resources (WKN A3CYRW / CSE HMR)!
It has just been announced that Homerun has entered into a research and development collaboration aimed at evaluating the incorporation of the silica sand refining process into the creation of a long-life energy storage solution based on particle thermal energy storage technology. This is because the research partners – Homerun, the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the renewable energy-focused technology company Babcock & Wilcox – have recognized the potential of this novel energy storage technology to upgrade Homerun’s silica sand while delivering clean, reliable energy!
Overcoming market barriers will also be supported
The collaboration is intended not only to develop the new technology to commercial maturity, but also to help overcome market barriers to the widespread use of the technology in decarbonization applications. In other words, the R&D alliance will help define a path to commercialization for which there is currently no initial application and lay the groundwork for ongoing technology development that can improve the U.S. industry and create jobs.
The research partners also believe that particle thermal energy storage can strengthen energy security and the resilience of the grids. This is because it offers a potentially cost-effective and long-lasting way of surviving blackouts or weather events that could cause local power grids to collapse.
Quartz sand from Homerun is tested for technical and economic advantages
NREL will test the quartz sand provided by Homerun to determine the best composition and suitability of the material for energy storage. In addition, further applications of quartz sand treating for e.g. glass for solar cells, PV silicon (photovoltaics) or glass substrate for perovskite PV cells and silicon anodes for Li-ion batteries (!) will be investigated.
The parties will also analyze the economic benefits of using Homerun’s silica sand for energy storage, including energy arbitrage from energy storage and grid service, processing the silica sand by using low-cost electricity in energy storage, and generating potential revenue from processed materials after use for energy storage (e.g., high-purity silica sand for renewable materials).
New technology could have far-reaching effects
The technology development led by NREL is therefore aimed at enabling a cost-effective technology that allows long-term storage of thermal energy (long-duration thermal energy storage / LDES). And according to the cooperation partners, this new technology could have far-reaching effects. For example, applications in the storage of renewable energy for use in power grids are possible. Ultimately, according to the Homerun press release, LDES could compete with natural gas!
The NREL project, called ENDURING, has already developed key components of the storage system in collaboration with industry partners and verified the functional mechanisms through laboratory testing of prototypes and modeling of component and system performance. The development supports the designs of an electrically rechargeable particle heater, a fluidized bed heat exchanger that drives an electric circuit, and a particle storage device for storing hot particles at 1200°C. An integrated storage system was designed and analyzed for performance and cost to verify the techno-economic goals of LDES applications.
Increasing share of renewables a major advantage
ENDURING technology works by heating stable, low-cost silicon particles that remain stable at both high and ambient temperatures to more than 1,000 degrees Celsius. This should be done when electrical energy pricing is most favorable. The resulting energy can then be stored for several days in large storage modules. In order to then use the energy, the hot particles are passed through a heat exchanger, which ultimately drives an electricity generator.
As more and more energy from renewable sources becomes available and the energy sector is also electrified, Homerun believes that thermal energy storage could become increasingly useful for the broad decarbonization of the economy. The NREL technology is focused on low-cost silica sands and offers broad application potential for the integration of renewable energy generation.
Conclusion: We believe that Homerun Resources is opening a new, highly exciting chapter in the company's history by participating in this research collaboration with its renowned partners. If successful, the company would not only be a raw material partner for a potentially ground-breaking energy storage technology that could even compete with natural gas, but would also be in the favourable position of being able to subsequently sell the material refined through its use in thermal energy storage into numerous markets. In our opinion, there is be a good chance that Homerun will gain new momentum with this deal. However, we would also like to point out that success and market penetration are of course not guaranteed and that this is a highly risky speculation. But that is the price you, really, always have to pay for high potential.
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