A massive section of the world's population lives between latitudes 45˚ N and 30˚ S. A significant part of their peak electricity demand is driven by cooling systems requirements. Predominantly, electrochemical solutions such as Lithium-ion batteries are used to balance energy needs from the grid during peak hours. However, Lithium is an expensive, unsafe, and unsustainable rare earth material.

California, New York, and New Jersey aim to achieve 50 percent solar energy by 2030. But, overdependence on solar energy can destabilize the grid, and spike the dependency on Lithium-ion batteries. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), for California to achieve 50 percent solar energy, it will have storage need for ~60GWh, which equals 54,000 metric-ton of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE). This amount will have to be replaced every 10 years or so. As per industrial energy and big-data analytics expert, Yaron Ben Nun, people are concerned with the cooling rather than the means for achieving it. Thinking outside-the-box, he and Eyal Ziv founded Nostromo Energy to leverage the high latent heat of water to redesign ice storage and enable, for the first time, the use of water as a viable energy capacitor for commercial users. Here, plain water is frozen, using cheap electricity at night or at solar surplus production, and during peak hours, the consumers’ cooling demands are easily satisfied by discharging cold energy through the ice. “We will enable water to become a major capacitor for behind-the-meter energy storage arena and push away mountains of Lithium using plain tap water,” remarks Ben Nun. "Ice will always be the coolest technology for storing energy."

"Though ice energy storage has been used since the last 40 years, the high costs and large structure of these ice energy storage technologies don’t fit the needs of the commercial market," explains Yaron. Nostromo has developed the world's first modular thermal energy storage (TES) Cell called the IceBrick™, an environmentally sustainable encapsulated ice ESS. IceBrick™ uses cheap, safe, sustainable, and environment-friendly plain water to store and discharge upto 8 ton-h (Ton-refrigeration-hour) of thermal energy, equivalent to the thermal energy produced by a chiller consuming ~10 kWh of electricity.

An IceBrick™ weighs 650kg (1,430lbs) and measures 25x50x400cm (10"x20"x157"). "You can put IceBrick™ on the roof, use it to build a wall or fill with it any space near your machine room; it's a very flexible solution,” remarks Ben Nun. This revolutionary TES system can benefit commercial customers like hotels, shopping malls, big retail stores, airport terminals, and office buildings.

Ice will always be the coolest technology for storing energy

Nostromo uses the encapsulated ice process to build ice within thousands of High-density polyethylene (HDPE) capsules instead of using coils that prove high maintenance and inefficient for ice storage. Nostromo uses a proprietary ice nucleating agent that ensures 100 percent freezing of water and resolves the problem of power rate reduction at the second half of the discharge cycle, which is the hidden pain point of current ice storage technologies. The system's highly effective heat transfer method of design ensures high discharge power rate for 87 percent of the gross capacity of the cell. "While everyone is focused on pricy and unsafe Lithium-ion systems, Nostromo's system is 50 percent cheaper, will never explode, and doesn't require any rare or toxic materials,” states Ben Nun.

Nostromo plans to cooperate with real estate companies, providing demonstrations and training, introducing them to the possibility of controlling energy demand using ice. The company intends to transfer its eight pending patents into full patents. Currently, Nostromo is closing seed round with two multi-billion companies but these deals are undisclosed. In the coming 12 months, Nostromo intends to deploy commercial size (above 1000 kWh Li-ion equivalent) demo systems in California, New York, South Australia (Victoria) and China (Shenzhen).
- Jonathan Smith
    August 1, 2018