Our Energy Storage Unit A Better Alternative To Li-Ion Batteries: Vijay Prateik, CEO, DeMITasse Energy

Our Energy Storage Unit A Better Alternative To Li-Ion Batteries: Vijay Prateik, CEO, DeMITasse Energy Vijay Prateik, Founder and CEO of DeMITasse Energy

Vijay Prateik is the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of DeMITasse Energies. Prateik is an alumnus of IIT-Bombay and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His company was also incubated at IIM-Bangalore. His startup, founded in 2016, uses thermo-chemical mechanisms for storing energy for longer durations. It claims that the firm’s technology can aid in storing variable renewable energy for longer durations and inject it into the grid when needed. 

DeMITasse portrays itself as an alternative to other popular energy storage devices. The company has provided its energy storage services to the Indian Navy. It has also worked with a global space company, besides working with several private companies and government entities in India. In an interview with Saur Energy, Prateik spoke about his journey, technology, and future plans.

Saur: How did the journey of DeMITasse Energy start?

Prateik: It was around a decade ago, in 2011. We started as an idea with my friend Sanjay. Earlier, we were doing data compression. It took us 5-6 years to build the technology. Later we decided that it would be a full-fledged company. After college at MIT, I joined a job in a multinational company in the United States (US) for a short stint. However, I left after a few years and returned to India to follow my passion and develop our technology. 

Saur: Can you explain how your technology works and the associated benefits?

Prateik: We store energy just like a battery with a difference. Our technology for energy storage is called ‘thermochemical energy storage systems.’ Using a complex thermal process, we store the energy in chemical bonds. These stored energies could be converted to mechanical or electrical energy whenever required.

Saur: How can your technology benefit companies? 

Prateik: There are two benefits of our technology: it reduces wastage of energy, resulting in better efficiency of power plants and its associated monetary benefits. Fossil fuels are considered one of the best options for their generation capacity as they store energy in thermo-chemical form and release energy during combustion. Our system also works almost the same way where we store energy in thermo-chemical mode. 

The whole process leads to reducing wastage. For example, around 60 percent of the input energy is wasted in thermal power plants during power generation. In our storage systems, around 80 percent of the input energy is converted into energy. It brings monetary benefits. Besides energy storage, this could be used as a base peak recovery system. If you couple it with thermal power plants, oil and gas refineries and cement plants, you can actually utilize a lot of energy that is often wasted. One can convert it into electricity and send it to the grid. Thus it can lead to more monetary benefits and also reduced emissions.

Saur: What are the potential uses of your technology in different sectors? How can it aid in the growth of renewables? 

Prateik: It has a lot of advantages. It can help in storing renewable energy during peak production. It can help in more offtake of renewable energy and its integration with the grid, leading to more grid stability too. Many renewable generators often generate clean energy but cannot sell it due to curtailments. Our technology can also avoid the curtailment of renewable energy due to technological barriers. We can thus increase the profitability of renewable generators. 

We can work with the Indian Navy, using the waste heat from submarines when they are underwater to generate electricity. We can also work with space companies that can use the heat from the sun when satellites orbit and use the energy when they are far from the sun. 

Saur: How different is your technology from Lithium-ion battery or Pumped Hydro Storage Projects?

Prateik: There is no single bullet that can resolve the issue of variable renewable energy. You would require multiple options. You need it for frequency regulation and for a high-speed response for grid stability. Lithium-ion batteries could offer these and our technology cannot do it. 

There are indeed options like Lithium-ion batteries which are quite expensive. We are building batteries that can store energy for very long periods like days, months to years at the price of around 6-8 times cheaper than Lithium-ion batteries. Once you do this, you can connect these giant batteries to the grid and store renewable energy. It can lead to more use of renewable energy. 

Pumped hydro is already there across the world for grid stability. You need dams for this technology; we cannot have dams everywhere. Also, the energy density in pumped hydro is very less. There are also new technologies like graviticity, liquid energy storage or compressed air energy storage. Many of these technologies are promising, but mostly on a lab scale. They are trying to undertake new scientific researches, which take a lot of time. 

We focused on technology-centered engineering solutions rather than rebuilding a science. We used technologies like heat exchangers, boilers, and turbines and revamped them for a new cycle. It reduces the time and cost of production. Our technology is a mix of several technologies.

Saur: Do you see any competition in India or abroad who are working in similar technologies?

Prateik: In India, we don’t have any such entity, but in the US and Europe, some people, companies and startups are trying to solve this problem but using different technologies. They are heavily funded too. They are funded by funding behemoths like Bill Gates, the US Department of Energy.  

Saur: How much struggle do you face in fetching clients? Who are your main clients? 

Prateik: The benefit of this industry is that everyone is educated. In many other startups, you need to educate your clients and there is a cost for consumer acquisition. In many cases, many clients and funders approached us and in many cases, we had to work to convince others. 

The Andhra Pradesh government approached us for the issue of a Letter of Intent (LOI) when we were raising our prototype. We have also worked with KPCL (Karnataka Power Corporation Limited). They offered us Rs 5 crore to demonstrate our technology at their Raichur Thermal Power Plant. We have worked with the Indian Navy on strategic works. We have worked with BPCL too. One of our biggest clients is Thermax. We are building a demonstration work for them and our next work for them in building boilers for their next generation. 

Saur: What is the stage of your startup now? 

Prateik: We are at TRL-5 and TRIL-6.  It means we have developed and tested the basic prototype in the real world. We have pilots with several clients and we are now moving towards commercialization. We are getting all the regulatory approvals, mass manufacturing preparations components and streamlining the process. We intend to launch our official commercial components by the middle of next year. 

Saur: Have you not filed your Patents as of now? Any plans for Patents in the near future? 

Prateik: Patents are excellent, but many people think it is not to protect you but to act as a deterrent. So if you want to copy my technology, I cannot stop you. I can just take you to court. For that, we need money. Patents are good as deterrents. We have refrained. We have a strategy. We are using trade secrets. We will start filing for patents once we get funds to protect our IP. It is also in the public domain. If we file it, everybody will know about it. In the next five years, we will be filing the patents.

Saur: What are your future plans? 

Prateik: We have built the foundation of engineering of existing technologies. Most of them are time-tested and scalable. Technology is extremely scalable, from 5kw to several MW of power plants. The issue is cost. We can go into 100s of MW of capacity on a larger scale. We are perfectly suited for grid applications. When scale increases, prices come down. As we increase the capacity, the prices will come down. 

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