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How heat batteries promise a cleaner future in industrial manufacturing

“Reindustrialization of the American heartland”

In my conversation with Justin Briggs, a cofounder and chief operating officer at Antora, he brought up his vision for the “reindustralization of the American heartland.” He believes that by offering cleaner heat to industries traditionally reliant on fossil fuels, heat batteries can help these sectors continue to grow while reducing emissions at the same time.

I found this perspective intriguing, as it’s often overlooked. Climate technologies aren’t just about the technology itself and what it enables; they also impact the people working in these industries or those directly affected by the technology.

Briggs’s theory is that people who already work with hot manufacturing processes won’t require much retraining to use Antora’s product, making it an appealing option for companies looking to take advantage of a boom in clean-energy funding. 

This boom is driven in part by government policies, like the Inflation Reduction Act, that provide funding to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. A major concern is how to help emissions-heavy industries like manufacturing and their workforces transition to cleaner processes without major disruption—such as shutting down, or bringing in entirely new workforces to operate new technologies. 

If there is a cleaner alternative that reduces emissions while allowing workers to continue applying their existing skills, it would alleviate the stresses like job losses and restructuring that some people fear might accompany such a substantial energy transition.

What lies ahead for the heat-battery industry?

Industry experts are closely monitoring the market and express excitement about what the future holds—but also emphasize that we’re still in the industry’s very early stages.

Blaine Collison, an executive director at the Renewable Thermal Collaborative, a coalition working to decarbonize industrial heat, told me that he believes heat batteries are “on the verge of substantial initial scaling.” 

His optimism is partly due to heat batteries’ flexibility and their capacity to address multiple issues simultaneously. For one thing, these batteries can relieve the pressure on the grid by storing excess renewable energy while providing a cleaner source of heat to industries that have traditionally relied on fossil fuels.

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