Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), a group of private investors led by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, and other well-known billionaires, is paving the way for new, innovative green technology with a big impact. The fund is focused on technology such as micro grids, low-carbon building materials, and zero-carbon liquid fuels. And while Tesla and General Motors have bet on lithium-ion batteries, BEV has sought clean energy elsewhere in the form of flow batteries.
Form Energy is one of the companies that BEV first invested in and is a strong bet for new flow battery technology. In its Series B funding round, Form Energy received $40M from BEV and other investors. And, as of November 2020, BEV continues to back the company, helping it raise $76M in their Series C round. This brings the total funds raised for the company to around $125 million.
The company aims to develop a long duration energy storage system that will eliminate the need for gas and coal completely. Form Energy is looking at sulfur, a relatively cheap and common material, for an aqueous sulfur flow battery. A patent application from the company relating to such was published in January 2020, titled “Aqueous Polysulfide-based electrochemical cell” (US Patent Pub. No. 20200006796). The application lays out a plan for an electrochemical cell that utilizes electrolytes containing sulfur and manganese-based electrodes. It is the only patent document the company has as of now. In May of this year, the company unveiled another prototype, an “aqueous air” battery system. The 1-megawatt, grid-connected storage system will be able to provide energy for up to 150 hours, previously unheard of in the storage industry. This is compared to the four hours of storage a typical lithium-ion battery storage system can provide.
Another startup BEV is focusing its investments in is ESS Tech Inc., an energy storage company focused on resilient, clean, and low-cost energy storage in the form of iron flow batteries - and a direct competitor of Form Energy. The company holds nine (9) patents and twenty (20) patent applications, with the most recent one published in May 2020. The patent application is titled, “Electrolyte health management for redox flow battery” (US Patent Pub. No. 20200161685) and focuses on an electrolyte rebalancing system, specifically for its iron flow battery. Though the battery is cost effective and pushes energy storage to 10 hours, this is still far behind Form Energy’s claim of 150 hours. With commercial, utility, and microgrid use already under ESS Tech Inc.’s belt, however, the company has already proven its use and gone beyond claims, especially important for those who have invested in the company.
Form Energy continues to show steady growth and innovation, but its technology is not expected to be available for commercial deployment for quite a few more years. And though BEV continues to support the company, only time will tell whether or not Form Energy can truly deliver on its promise of long duration, low-cost batteries, as ESS Tech Inc. already has. You can learn more about the fast growing Energy Storage industry using the Energy Storage: Flow Batteries Patent Forecast®.