“Form Energy” backed by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Branson Building Iron-Air Green Batteries

iron air green battery developed by form energy factory

Form Energy, a company backed by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson, has announced the site for its first factory that will build iron-air batteries. These batteries are claimed to be a breakthrough in long-duration storage of wind and solar power.

The $760 million debut plant will be located in Weirton, West Virginia. Form Energy says that its technology can store massive amounts of renewable energy for days at a time at costs far below other alternatives.

In addition to Breakthrough Energy Ventures (which is itself backed by Gates, Bezos, and Branson), Form Energy has attracted investors such as steel giant ArcelorMittal, etc.

Form Energy has unveiled a new technology that it claims can address one of the biggest challenges facing the energy transition. The company says its scalable, modular technology can store renewable energy for prolonged periods of time, making it ideal for compensating for low wind and solar generation.

The issue of prolonged slumps in wind output has been a live one in Europe over recent weeks, with the phenomenon widely known as ‘Dunkelflaute’ – a German word meaning dark doldrums – putting the variability of renewables in the spotlight.

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

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

The factory, which will be located in West Virginia, will produceForm Energy’s new iron-air battery modules. The batteries are designed to be able to store electricity for 100 hours at a time, at a cost that is competitive with traditional power plants.

The company claims that its batteries will “reshape the electric system to reliably run on 100% low-cost renewable energy, every day of the year”.

Form Energy's CEO, Mateo Jaramillo

Form Energy’s CEO, Mateo Jaramillo, said that the company’s goal is to provide “affordable, dispatchable clean energy to meet the world’s needs. He added that the West Virginia factory will be up and running by 2024.

This is not the first time thatForm Energy’s batteries have made headlines. In 2020, it was reported that Minnesota-based utility Great River Energy was planning to build a 1MW/150MWh grid-connected demonstration storage plant using Form Energy’s secret battery technology.

The new factory in West Virginia is just one example of the billionaire-backed efforts to develop new clean energy technologies. Gates, Bezos, and Branson have all been investing in clean energy companies in recent years, and it is clear that they see the potential for these technologies to transform the energy system.

Jaramillo said that after a year-long nationwide site selection process, Weirton, West Virginia is the ideal location for their first commercial battery production factory. He noted that Weirton sits on a river and has a rich heritage and history of iron production.

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