SoftBank Vision Fund invests in kinetic renewable energy storage

Out-Law News | 30 Aug 2019 | 12:15 pm | 1 min. read

Japan's Softbank Group's Vision Fund has invested $110 million in Switzerland-based Energy Vault, which uses gravity and kinetic techniques to store power from renewable energy generation.

According to Reuters, Energy Vault's technology stores renewable energy in 35-ton bricks so that it can be delivered as baseload power for less than the cost of fossil fuels. Baseload power is delivered 24 hours a day and efficient storage would solve the perceived problem that wind, solar and wave energy is only generated intermittently. The $100m investment will be used to take Energy Vault's technology, which is based on that used in hydro-electric plants, to commercial scale.

“Energy Vault solves a long-standing and complex problem of how to store renewable energy at scale,” SoftBank Vision Fund managing partner Akshay Naheta said in a statement.

Softbank is investing at an earlier stage than usual. According to Greentech Media, this is the first energy storage investment for Vision Fund. Greentech Media said that it is unusual for Vision Fund to invest in this kind of storage when a majority of venture capital in the industry is being directed toward lithium-ion batteries. Energy Vault's technology creates gravity and kinetic energy-based long duration energy storage solutions.

Energy Vault chief executive and co-founder Robert Piconi said "the scale of pent-up global demand for a scaleable solution convinced them to move faster", though they are planning to grow the business country by country,

Project finance expert John Yeap of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "As one of the main technological challenges with commercialising large scale non firm renewable energy generation has been managing its intermittency, it is encouraging to see continued  progress in energy storage.   Regulators in some electricity markets in Asia however have yet to fully grasp the role of storage facilities and how they should be regulated. This will be a priority focus for these markets as we see more and more storage being deployed."

The Energy Vault said that it will use the funds to accelerate global deployment of its technology, following this and a previous investment that from Mexico's Cemex Ventures in May.