Form Energy secures $70 million for ‘aqueous air battery’


From pv magazine USA

Mateo Jaramillo, the CEO and co-founder of Form Energy, has revealed that the company recently closed a Series C funding round of more than $70 million, as per Reuters. Funding for the startup now stands at more than $120 million.

Jaramillo did not identify the investors, nor has he disclosed the company's core technology. Form Energy remains a secretive, long-duration energy storage startup, funded by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and other investors. The company has only revealed that its fundamental energy storage technology is an “aqueous air battery system” that “leverages some of the safest, cheapest, most abundant materials on the planet” in order to commercially deploy a 1 MW/150 MWh long-duration storage solution.

Typical lithium ion battery storage systems provide four hours of storage compared to Form’s remarkable of 150 hours of storage. It’s not exactly the “seasonal” storage that Mateo Jaramillo, CEO of Form Energy, had spoken of in the past — but it’s a few orders of magnitude better than what can be done today.

Unconfirmed sources have claimed that Form Energy’s sulfur battery chemistry can only support very low discharge rates. Jaramillo, an energy storage veteran, has referred to the company’s product as a “bi-directional power plant” and claims that this level of  duration allows for “a fundamentally new reliability function to be provided to the grid from storage, one historically only available from thermal generation resources.”

First project

Form Energy’s first commercial project is a 1 MW, grid-connected storage system. It can deliver its rated power continuously for 150 hours to Minnesota-based utility Great River Energy. Great River Energy is a not-for-profit wholesale electric power cooperative that provides electricity to 28 member-owner distribution cooperatives, serving 700,000 families, farms and businesses. It’s Minnesota’s second-largest electric utility.

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“Commercially viable long-duration storage could increase reliability by ensuring that the power generated by renewable energy is available at all hours to serve our membership. Such storage could be particularly important during extreme weather conditions that last several days. Long-duration storage also provides an excellent hedge against volatile energy prices,” said Great River Energy VP Jon Brekke.

“A true low-cost, long-duration energy storage solution that can sustain output for days, would fill gaps in wind and solar energy production that would otherwise require firing up a fossil-fueled power plant,” added Jesse Jenkins, an assistant professor at Princeton University.

Dispatchable renewables

True low-cost, long-duration energy storage has always been the missing piece in making intermittent wind and solar act like baseload thermal generation year-round.

While there’s been a lot of chatter about long-duration energy storage, other than pumped hydro, there’s been little in the form of commercial deployment. Companies that have pursued long-duration energy storage include:

Founded in 2017, Form Energy is backed by investors Eni Next LLC, MIT’s The Engine, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Prelude Ventures, Capricorn Investment Group, and Macquarie Capital.

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