Green Battery Backed by Billionaires Gates, Bezos and Branson Plan Plant to ‘Reshape the Energy System’ | recharge

An energy tech pioneer backed by the likes of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson has revealed the site of the first factory to build “iron-air” batteries, purporting to be a breakthrough in long-term storage for wind and solar energy.

The company said Form Energy — whose technology it claims can store massive amounts of renewable energy for days at a time at a much lower cost than other alternatives — will build a plant for the first time in Weirton, West Virginia, in the United States.

Form Energy over the past few years has attracted a host of high-profile investors including Breakthrough Energy Ventures – itself backed by billionaire Microsoft Gates, Amazon entrepreneur Bezos and founder of Virgin Branson – along with the likes of steel giant ArcelorMittal.

The company bills its modular, scalable technology as an answer to one of the biggest challenges facing the energy transition — how to store renewable energy for periods long enough to compensate for prolonged high demand, or reduced wind and solar generation, and timescales beyond the range of lithium-ion batteries that can do the job. for shorter periods.

View of a large Form Energy iron air battery facility. Image: Form Energy

A prolonged stagnation in wind production has been a lively issue in Europe over recent weeks, with the phenomenon widely known as “Dunkelflaute” – German for dark stagnation – bringing to light the volatility of renewables.

The only solution currently on the table is to continue to rely on gas or even coal-fired plants to step in when needed to fill the gaps.

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Form Energy has revealed relatively few details about its technology except to say that it is based on “some of the safest, cheapest and most abundant materials on the planet – low-cost iron, water and air”.

It claims that the iron-and-air technology will be able to “store electricity for 100 hours at system costs that are competitive with legacy power plants.” The company’s pioneering multi-day battery will reconfigure the electrical system to run reliably using 100% low-cost renewable energy, every day. days of the year.”

energy form He said in 2021 that his battery modules “It will produce electricity for one-tenth the cost of any grid storage technology available today.”

recharge I mentioned in 2020 that Minnesota-based Great River Energy He was planning to build 1MW / 150MWh A pilot grid-connected storage plant using Form Energy’s secret battery technology — delivering 1 megawatt of output for 150 straight hours — shuts down all but one of its fossil-fuel power plants.

Form Energy CEO and co-founder Matteo Jaramillo, who previously helped build Tesla’s energy storage business, said the West Virginia battery plant will be up and running in 2024.

“After a year-long nationwide site-selection process that began with the identification of more than 500 candidate sites across 16 states, it has become abundantly clear that Weirton, West Virginia—a historic steel community located on a river with the rich heritage and know-how for making wonderful things out of iron… – This is the perfect location for our first commercial battery production plant,” Jaramillo said.

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