Superhot brick batteries charged with excess renewable energy will be used to power two whisky production factories owned by alcohol conglomerate Diageo as part of a $6bn US government plan to decarbonise industry.

Up to $75m of government money will support the electrification of two Diageo factories in the states of Kentucky and Illinois, aiming to make both carbon neutral by 2026 and 2028, respectively.

British drinks giant Diageo, which owns over 200 alcohol brands worldwide, including Johnnie Walker whisky, Smirnoff vodka and Captain Morgan rum, will partner with California start-up Rondo Energy to install its brick batteries and eliminate reliance on the natural gas-fired boilers it currently uses for heating.

The US Department of Energy announced on Monday that it is providing $6bn in funding for 33 projects to decarbonise energy-intensive industries. It said the industrial sector contributes nearly one-third of the nation’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.

US energy secretary Jennifer Granholm said this is the “largest investment in industrial decarbonisation in the history of the United States” and will “slash emissions” in difficult-to-decarbonise sectors.

The Rondo system uses electric heating elements, like those in a toaster or oven, to heat thousands of tonnes of bricks to temperatures of 1,500°C. Rondo says the bricks maintain the heat with less than 1% energy loss daily.

Rondo bricks laid out at a production facility Photo: Rondo Energy

When heat is wanted, air flows up through the brick stack and is superheated before being delivered to the end point as superheated air or steam.

Rondo says its system is designed to drop into existing industrial facilities or power new-builds, and offers a fast, low-cost pathway to decarbonisation and reduced operating costs.

The bricks can both “charge” and deliver heat simultaneously. Other claimed benefits include the abundant nature of the key materials, which are non-flammable, and the safety of having no moving parts. The batteries are claimed to boast a 50-year lifespan.

Rondo claims its heat batteries can in the next 15 years cut global CO2 emissions by 15% – the amount of global emissions generated by burning fossil fuels for industrial heat. To date, it has only deployed its technology in one 2MW California facility that supplies thermal energy to an ethanol plant.

Rondo CEO John O’Donnell said their heat battery “opens new opportunities for simpler cost reductions and deeper integration with renewable energy sources, and we’re honoured Diageo has chosen us to help them achieve their 100% renewable energy goal.”

Marsha McIntosh-Hamilton, president of North America Supply at Diageo, said the funding “marks a milestone” for their operations and “gives us the opportunity to incorporate innovative technologies into our production footprint to make our business more efficient, resilient and sustainable.”

Rondo has been gaining momentum for its brick battery tech, inking a deal with Portugal’s EDP earlier this month to pair its technology with new wind and solar farms.

Investors including Microsoft and oil giant Saudi Aramco last year helped Rondo raise $60m in new financing planned to speed up the rollout of its heat batteries worldwide.

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