Decarbonising industry: thermal storage of heat generated from behind-the-meter PV



A PhD scholarship is being offered for this student project (one of two PhD scholarships being offered under this research project).

The research project aims to accelerate the uptake of large-scale PV in the industrial heating context through the development of direct electrical heating (DEH) components and simplified power electronics that enable cost reduction through reduced system complexity.  The proposed technology is based on DEH, where DC current from a PV system is passed directly through a resistive device, without a conventional inverter leading to major savings in the power electronics downstream of the solar PV.  Critically, behind-the-meter PV-DEH enables use of low-cost thermal energy storage.

The PhD project has experimental and modelling aspects.  Primarily, the candidate will work on development and evaluation of thermal energy storage (TES) systems, and integration of these systems with industrial processes. Two particular TES technologies of interest in this project are a system based on storage of energy in solid graphite (developed by partner Graphite Energy), and a system based on use of the heat transfer fluid in direct contact with magnesia bricks (under development at ANU).  Laboratory-scale testing and associated numerical modelling will examine thermal performance, and practical aspects relating to materials compatibility and stability.  Testing will take place in our high-temperature laboratories. Modelling aspects will include both detailed TES component models and reduced-order system level models, taking advantage of ANU’s Modelica-based system simulation tool SolarTherm for annual simulations of integrated PV, DEH, thermal storage, with focus on how best to integrate thermal storage with industrial processes.

Our School

The Australian National University (ANU) is one of the top universities in Australia and is ranked amongst the top 50 in the QS World University Rankings in terms of research quality. The School of Engineering (SoEN) in the ANU College of Engineering, Computing and Cybernetics has an extremely strong research culture with outstanding performance in a wide range of fields including renewable energy, energy storage and systems engineering. This project will be supervised by Dr Joe Coventry, Dr John Pye, and two other members of an expert panel. The project involves strong collaboration with RMIT university, and the opportunity to work closely with industry partners.



Applications are open to domestic and international students. Applicants must hold a first class Honours degree or Master's degree in mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, or a related field, and/or have relevant research experience.  Practical experimental experience, heat transfer modelling ability, and aptitude for experimental data analysis & interpretation would be viewed favourably.  Experience with numerical modelling methods would also be an advantage. Applicants are advised to undertake a self assessment before applying. To express interest in applying, please send a 1 page cover letter and CV (including results for relevant degrees) to Dr Joe Coventry and Dr John Pye by 31 January 2023. The scholarship has the same stipend and other conditions as a standard ANU PhD scholarship, but is available for commencement as soon as possible in 2023. 

Background Literature

Keith Lovegrove, Dani Alexander, Roman Bader, Stephen Edwards, Michael Lord, Ahmad Mojiri, Jay Rutovitz, Hugh Saddler, Cameron Stanley, Kali Urkalan, Muriel Watt, Renewable Energy Options for Industrial Process Heat, 2019,

Ignacio Calderón-Vásquez, Eduardo Cortés, Jesús García, Valentina Segovia, Alejandro Caroca, Cristóbal Sarmiento, Rodrigo Barraza, José M. Cardemil, “Review on modeling approaches for packed-bed thermal storage systems”, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol. 143, 2021,

Harmeet Singh, R.P. Saini, J.S. Saini, A review on packed bed solar energy storage systems, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol. 14, Issue 3, 2010,

Zebedee Kee, Joe Coventry, John Pye, “Boiling sodium and melting salt: Evaluation and optimisation of a novel solar–thermal system concept”, Applied Thermal Engineering, Vol. 218, 2023,

J. Coventry, J.F. Torres, Z. Kee, M. V. Bozorg, M. Taheri, A. Mojiri, J. Pye, S. Bell, G. Will, T. Steinberg, Packed bed thermal energy storage with sodium as the heat transfer fluid, Asia-Pacific Solar Research Conference, Sydney, Dec 2021,

Paul Denholm, Josh Eichman, and Robert Margolis, “Evaluating the Technical and Economic Performance of PV Plus Storage Power Plants”, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2017, (

Jeffrey M. Gordon, Thomas Fasquelle, Elie Nadal, Alexis Vossier, “Providing large-scale electricity demand with photovoltaics and molten-salt storage”, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol. 135, 2021,


Thermal energy storage, graphite, packed bed, magnesia, direct electrical heating PV, industrial process heat, decarbonisation

Updated:  10 August 2021/Responsible Officer:  Dean, CECS/Page Contact:  CECS Marketing