Form Energy and its backers are leading a tech revolution to make power 100% renewable


A utility worker stands near the top of an electrical pole, speaking into a walkie talkie while looking at power line connectors.
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Last week, Form Energy, a startup developing iron-air batteries that could store renewable power for several days, got a major monetary boost to the tune of several hundred million dollars.


The reason? Energy storage and capacity are expected to soar in the coming years driven by the global proliferation of renewable energy, grid supply challenges, government support, and lower price points on storage tech.


Form's solution providing long term storage is critical to moderate the variable nature of renewable energy.


Long-duration storage, in particular, is needed for the acceleration of wind and solar power development. As we strive to reach net-zero targets, investment in the growth of these technologies could represent a $1.5-$3 trillion opportunity.

That's why investors like TPG Rise Climate and new investors including GIC and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board joined previous investors ArcelorMittal, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Capricorn Investment Group, Coatue, Energy Impact Partners, The Engine, NGP ETP, Temasek, Prelude Ventures and VamosVentures in funding the company.


It's no exaggeration to say that solving long-duration energy storage cheaply is the holy grail for renewable energy development.


Since its founding in 2017, Form Energy has already raised over $800 million for its unconventional grid storage hardware: iron-air batteries.


According to the company, the technology primarily uses low-cost iron, water, and air to store power, optimized to store electricity for 100 hours at system costs competitive with legacy power plants. That technology has earned Form a $1.2 billion valuation.


Form Energy’s goal is to tackle one of the biggest barriers to decarbonization: making renewable energy available when and where it is needed, whether that be over multiday periods during extreme weather events, grid outages, or periods when renewable generation is low.


The company's new $450 million round takes the Massachusetts-based startup out of the pre-commercial stage and propels Form to commercialize the tech, which in their words, “will unlock tens of gigawatts of demand” in the U.S., to “catalyze billions of dollars in savings to American electricity consumers.”


If it works, Form’s battery will be able to store renewable energy so cheaply that power plants can deliver zero-carbon electricity 24/7, 365 days a year, when the wind doesn’t blow, and the sun doesn’t shine, creating a feasible alternative to fossil fuel plants that make the same promise.


According to Canary Media, with the money, the company plans to double its staff, finalize the location of its first commercial factory, begin manufacturing by 2024, and generate meaningful revenue by the subsequent year. Led by TPG Rise, other investors included GIC, CPP Investments, ArcelorMittal, and Breakthrough Energy Ventures.


At present, the majority of grid-storage installations rely on lithium-ion batteries which can only cost-effectively store energy for a few hours. Form Energy is just one startup working to change that reality. But, why iron? The company believes iron’s rusting and de-rusting method will help it avoid the supply bottlenecks and high costs associated with lithium and other traditional battery materials, according to Axios.


Other startups are taking different unconventional approaches. But the goal is the same, to find ways to turn intermittent sources of renewable energy into resources that are always available to provide power.


Across the pond, another hydrogen-centered storage startup is Britain’s H2GO Power, developing zero-emission storage of hydrogen in its solid state using nanomaterials with the release of hydrogen on-demand.


A second English startup, Highview Power, is using Liquid Air Energy Storage technology to store air as a liquid. According to the company, its liquid-air storages are available at sizes enough to store electricity for more than 200,000 homes for 12 hours, creating a cheaper, zero-emission solution compared to lithium-ion batteries.


Back in the states, Aquion Energy replaces lithium with saltwater batteries. Aquion makes its batteries out of abundant materials, such as stainless steel, manganese, carbon, and alkali-ion saltwater, using low-cost manufacturing techniques. In addition to utility-scale, the startup’s batteries are also available for residential uses.


And finally, down under, Australian startup Red Flow, replaces lithium-ion with zinc-ion and zinc-air flow batteries. In addition to being non-flammable, zinc batteries can withstand harsh environments with hot temperatures. Known as the world’s smallest commercially available zinc-bromine flow battery, the battery has beat outages, cut power bills by as much as 80%, has a lifespan of 10 years, and can be discharged to 100% without capacity loss, the company says.


Whether it be with iron, solid-state hydrogen, liquid air, saltwater, or zinc, the clean energy storage revolution is racing to replace lithium-ion batteries to scale renewables for a greener, zero-emission future.



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