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Chemical Engineering
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Sand-based thermal-energy storage

| By Gerald Ondrey

Using concentrated solar thermal (CST) energy to supply industrial-heating requirements is a promising way to reduce the use of fossil fuels. This is the aim of Magaldi Green Energy (Rome, Italy; ), which developed its Solar Thermo Electric Magaldi (STEM) CST technology. STEM-CST not only converts solar radiation into thermal energy, but integrates energy storage in order to supply process steam, even in the absence of sunlight. The patented STEM-CST technology consists of a primary-mirror field (heliostats) and a secondary reflector positioned over a ground-mounted solar receiver, consisting of a fluidized bed (FB) of silica sand (diagram). The FB can be uniformly heated to 600°C, and can then release the stored energy via heat exchangers immersed in the sand. This approach has the advantage over alternative molten-salt storage systems, because the sand can operate at both lower and higher temperatures. The STEM-CST system can deliver thermal energy within the required temperature range (100–400°C) for many industrial sectors, including paper, food-and-beverages, chemicals and plastics.

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Source: Magaldi Green Energy

The first experimental module started up in June 2016 at the Integrated Energy Hub of A2A Enerie Future in San Filippo del Mela in Messina, Sicily, where it operated for 12,000 h.

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Source: Magaldi Green Energy

In parallel, the Magaldi Group has developed MGTES (Magaldi Green Thermal Energy Storage), which is also based on a FB of sand, but uses electrical heating (from photovoltaic (PV) or wind generators) to “charge” the battery. Last March, Enel-X (Rome; ) and the Magaldi Group joined a partnership to further develop MGTES technology. The first application will involve supplying “green” thermal energy to meet the energy needs of vegetable-oil producer I.GI S.r.l. (Buccino, Italy), a supplier of Ferrero Group. It involves building a 5-MW PV plant and a 125-ton MGTES system with a daily storage capacity of 13 MWh of thermal energy. The MGTES system will become operational in the second half of 2024.
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