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US ‘aqueous air battery’ developer reveals investors in recent $76 million funding round

The holy grail of energy storage has always been low-cost and long-duration. Form Energy plans to deploy a 1 MW/150 MWh system with a Minnesota utility before 2023 – an unprecedented energy storage duration, if successful.

From pv magazine USA

Form Energy has revealed the investors in its recent $76 million funding round.

The stealthy company’s Series C was led by Coatue Management. Funding in the startup now totals more than $125 million from investors such as NGP Energy Technology Partners III, Energy Impact Partners, Temasek, BEV, Prelude, The Engine, Capricorn, and Macquarie.

Form Energy remains a secretive, long-duration energy storage startup that has revealed its fundamental energy storage technology as 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 claim that Form Energy’s sulfur battery chemistry can only support very low discharge rates “and they’re trying to pass it off as an advantage. Pretty much any battery can hold energy for 150 hours or more.”

The CEO, an energy storage veteran, has referred to the company’s product as a “bidirectional power plant.” He 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

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

“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:

Form Energy was established in 2017.

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Source: pv magazine