An ambitious plan to make commercially viable, nanostructured, gel-based batteries to lead the renewable electricity revolution is closer to becoming a reality, with the multimillion-dollar investment by the UK’s major utility-scale solar energy company into a pioneering University of Sydney start-up.
A University of Sydney spin-off company Gelion Pty Ltd has exchanged contracts with Armstrong Energy, underpinned by a commitment, valued at $11m, of the leading London-headquartered company, which focuses on renewables, particularly solar energy at utility-scale.
Gelion has previously attracted attention from investors and strategic partners in the United States, Germany and Israel. Gelion is the brainchild of renewable energy and catalysis expert Professor Thomas Maschmeyer, who is also the director of the Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, which launches this month at the University of Sydney on 20 April.
The idea is to build houses with batteries inherently included as part of their structure, and also to serve as a buffer for the grid, enabling an ever greater share of renewables to be connected.
The relatively new battery company relies on Professor Maschmeyer’s breakthrough design of nanostructured gels aimed at significantly outcompeting current lithium ion technology in terms of charging/discharging speeds, size, safety, durability and price.
The initial market is storage in buildings – both residential and commercial.
“The idea is to build houses with batteries inherently included as part of their structure, ready to take advantage of rapidly improving, solar energy technology and also to serve as a buffer for the grid, enabling an ever greater share of renewables to be connected, while grid stability is maintained” Professor Maschmeyer, from the School of Chemistry said.
A full commercial demonstration prototype could be developed within four years - now that the major international investment was secured - allowing subsequent engineering for mass production, readying the development for broad commercial introduction.
Lend Lease CEO Steve McCann has told ABC TV’s Catalyst that large CBD office buildings could soon double as huge batteries: “We’re thinking about things like working with Professor Maschmeyer to use prefabricated wall segments for example, as, effectively, battery storage or power storage facilities.”
Armstrong Energy Director Steve Mahon said the investment signaled a long-term strategic growth partnership in this important area of energy and battery storage.
“The investment fits very well into our existing portfolio that specialises in the development, acquisition and operation of power projects that provide a stable yield for our investors from the sale of electricity or heat,” Mr Mahon said.
“We have invested more than £250 million into energy infrastructure, delivering excellent risk-adjusted returns to investors – we expect the Gelion investment to join that success.”
University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence said Gelion Technologies was a success story for the University of Sydney and for public investment in science and technology.
“Here we have an outstanding example where quality academic achievements meet with a desire to make an impact - and translate the deep, fundamental insights gained in the laboratory to commercial application,” Dr Spence said.
The new Sydney Nanoscience Hub is part of the Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology.