SoftBank Vision Fund—which has invested in startups like Uber, Slack, WeWork, and Paytm—has recently doled out quite a bit of Benjamins in Swiss-based Energy Vault, which stores energy in stacked concrete blocks…$110 million, in fact. Sort of a lot for a company that’s only been around for less than two years (November 2018).
However, the potential gains are expected to be huge. The global energy storage market is expected to hit 22.2 GW in 2023, from nearly 5 GW at the end of 2018, according to a report in May by data and analytics company GlobalData.
Energy Vault’s breakthrough technology was inspired by pumped hydro plants that rely on the power of gravity and the movement of water to store and discharge electricity. The company’s solution is based on the same well-understood fundamentals of physics and mechanical engineering used in those plants but replaces water with custom made composite bricks through an innovative use of low-cost materials and material science. The bricks, each weighing 35 metric tons, are combined with Energy Vault’s proprietary system design and machine vision software to operate a newly designed crane.
The software autonomously orchestrates the energy storage tower and electricity charge/discharge utilizing predictive intelligence and a unique stack of proprietary algorithms that account for a variety of factors, including energy supply and demand volatility, grid stability, weather elements and other variables. As a result, the Energy Vault tower can deliver all the benefits of a large scale pumped hydro storage system, but at a much lower levelized cost, higher roundtrip efficiency and without the requirement for specific land topography and negative environmental impacts.
“Energy Vault solves a long-standing and complex problem of how to store renewable energy at scale,” Akshay Naheta, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, said in a statement, announcing Vision Fund’s $110 million investment. “Energy Vault is highly complementary to SoftBank’s existing energy portfolio and we are pleased to further the company’s global development.”
Robert Piconi, chief executive and co-founder of Energy Vault said despite planning to grow the business country by country, the scale of pent-up global demand for a scalable solution convinced them to move faster.
“The Vision Fund shares our passion to combat climate change through innovation in energy storage technologies and, with its support as a strategic partner, Energy Vault is well-positioned to meet the large and currently unmet demand for sustainable and economical energy storage worldwide,” Piconi said.
Distributed Energy recently published a report about how the energy storage market is booming as battery costs decline. To read more, click here.