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Long duration energy storage, critical for renewable energy adoption, gets its day in the sun

In Louisiana, companies are using gravity and huge cement blocks to store massive amounts of energy; across the border in Canada, it’s molten salt and antifreeze; on the West Coast, in California, they’re using pressurized air.

After years of fits and starts, large scale, long duration energy storage projects are making their way into the mainstream — through deals with utility companies and renewable fuel makers to provide reliable, renewable power around the clock.

The latest long-duration energy storage company to ink a contract to bring a huge project to market is Cambridge, Mass.-based Malta Inc.

Spun out from Alphabet’s moonshot division and backed by the multi-billion dollar climate change mitigation fund founded by Bill Gates, Malta has spent the past four years refining its technology and now bringing its first big 1-gigawatt project to market.

The partner for Malta’s latest deal, announced earlier this week, is NB Power, the Canadian utility. When it’s completed, in 2024, Malta’s 1-gigawatt storage facility will be the largest of its kind in the world, the company said in a statement.

Meanwhile, plans are progressing for a 500-megawatt construction of the first commercial-scale gravity-based storage facility from Energy Vault.

Working with DG Fuels, a company looking to make sustainable aviation and diesel fuel from a combination of crop waste and hydrogen, Energy Vault’s first storage development is part of a larger 1.6-gigawatt deal that will see its technology rolled out in Ohio and Canada as well as Louisiana.

And earlier this year, the Toronto-based company Hydrostor signed a deal to develop 1 gigawatt of storage using its compressed air technology. The two projects that Hydrostor has in the state will cost roughly $1.5 billion to develop and are expected to come online in 2026.

Regulators in California need to find storage technologies that can save up power from the grid for at least eight hours as utilities look to replace power coming from the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant that‘s being decommissioned by 2025.

With a storage capacity of 12 hours, the Hydrostor technology is rough as flexible Malta’s 10-hour storage capacity. Energy Vault, by contrast, can store power for up to 24 hours.

There are companies developing technologies that can store power for even longer periods of time.

And heat’s at the heart of the technology for both Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Antora Energy and Electrified Thermal Solutions out of Boston. Both are using superheated blocks to store energy at temperatures over 1,500°C, and then turn it back to electricity for the grid when needed.

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