SoftBank’s Bill Gates-backed battery company ESS opens on the New York Stock Exchange

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ESS Inc. photo courtesy of

ESS is trying to solve a serious problem with renewable energy. How to store energy from wind and solar power plants when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining.

The company’s proposed solution is a long-term energy storage battery made of iron, salt and water, which is much cheaper and more accessible than the elements used in today’s batteries, such as lithium and cobalt. ..

ESS’s initial momentum has raised $57 million in investments from strong backers like Bill Gates and SoftBank, CEO Eric Dresselhois told CNBC.

It is currently published through SPAC and will open on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday with the ticker symbol GWH. We expect to raise $308 million through the deal.

ESS CEO Dresselhuys said: This year, after decades of executive experience in energy and technology.

started in the company In 2011, the garage of co-founders Craig Evans and Julia Song, a married couple and business partner, in Portland, Oregon. It moved to the Portland State Business Accelerator before expanding to its current 200,000-square-foot headquarters.

The company is backed by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Gates’ clean energy investment company. SB Energy is a wholly owned subsidiary of SoftBank. Among other investors, the multinational chemical company BASF. SPAC is ACONS2 Acquisition Corp., which lacks private equity firm Akon Investments. This will be realized through reverse merger with

As of September 8 financial statements, ESS has not yet recorded revenue. However, Dresselhuis said it shipped products to customers such as Terra Sol Energy in Pennsylvania and Siemens-Gemsa in Denmark. Investor Documents also claims a few other anonymous utilities as customers. ESS receives pipeline orders from SB Energy and EngleGreen Power Espaa.

The company lost $245.3 million in the first six months of 2021, with an operating loss of only $18.4 million. The balance was on account of losses from revaluation of warrants and derivatives loans. The company expects to report its first profit in 2023, with an operating loss of $17.4 million in 2021.

Iron, salt, water: safe and ready-to-use ingredients

Carmichael Roberts, co-chair of the Breakthrough Energy Ventures Investment Commission, said a major advance in ESS is long-duration iron flow batteries made from readily available materials.

In a battery, the electrolyte is the chemical medium that connects the anode and cathode at both ends of the battery. In an ESS battery, the electrolyte is made up of iron, salt, and water.

“Flow batteries are cheaper, safer and are longer lasting than traditional lithium-ion batteries,” Roberts said.

Making the battery out of iron, salt, and water “meaning it’s non-toxic and the technology we created doesn’t ignite or ignite,” says Dresselhuis.

In addition, ESS batteries do not contain lithium or cobalt, two common components of batteries that are affected by supply chain crunch.

Jesse Jenkins, an assistant professor at Princeton University specializing in energy grids, said:

“As long as lithium-ion batteries are recycled, lithium is less of a problem in the long run, but production will increase to meet EV battery demand, which could lead to higher prices in the short term,” Jenkins said. told.

“Cobalt is a bit tricky and is attacking some of the supply chains it depends on. [so-called] There are also African “craftsman mines” that employ forced labor and, in some cases, child labor, and people are digging cobalt manually, which is a very harsh situation,” Jenkins said.

The ESS also does not use vanadium, a chemical element used in some flow battery technologies. This factor is promising, but Dresselhuys says it is too expensive to understand.

“It’s one thing to get something working, and it can be very difficult, but at the scale we’re talking about, it works cost-effectively to be viable as a system. You need to,” They said.

Battery Mechanism: “Elegance is Simple”

Hugh McDermott, business development leader for ESS, said he would envision the sandwich. ESS battery technology is a stack of carbon plates containing salt water with iron flowing through each layer.

Iron comes out of the salt water and sticks to one side of the plate. When the polarity of the plate is changed, the iron dissolves and returns to an aqueous solution.

From the battery management control system, you can switch the flow of ions, which in turn allows you to switch between the flow of electricity into the grid and the flow of electricity out of the grid.

The iron flow battery “stack” of ESS Inc.

Image courtesy of ESS Inc.

According to Dressel Hois, the idea of ​​an iron flow battery dates back to the 1970s. However, there were some technical problems which were not solved by the scientists.

For example, an early iteration of the Iron-Flow battery technology worked for some time, but the electrolyte became unbalanced, accumulated in the battery, and over time the battery became dead. To fix this, the ESS has developed a proton pump. This allows Dresselhuys to “balance the system between all these charges and discharges, ensuring that the electrolyte is completely clean.”

The initial research was partially funded by the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program as well as a grant of approximately $3 million from individual and local investment funds.

“Elegance is simplicity,” said Rich Hausfeld, co-CEO of SB Energy and director of ESS. SB Energy is a client and investor of ESS.

However, a lot of research and development was required for the simple solution to work. ESS has been engaged in research and development for over 10 years. The proton pump was indeed a significant success for the company, but it was only one of many.

“There is a huge intellectual property gap around the core technology, which will make it very difficult for other competitors to make batteries similar to ESS batteries,” Hausfeld told CNBC.

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ESS Inc. photo courtesy of

The long battery developed by Form Energy also uses iron and is backed by Breakthrough Energy Ventures. However, Form uses a variety of technologies to develop iron-air batteries intended to provide multi-day energy storage.

While ESS batteries can store energy for 4-12 hours, automotive lithium batteries typically have an upper limit of 2-4 hours.

Hausfeld told CNBC that more lithium-ion batteries would need to be used to store the energy for more than four hours. ESS, on the other hand, requires only adding water, iron, and salt to a large tank of stack sandwiches.

“The cost-effective way to think of ESS is about half the cost of lithium-ion in four hours, and we think that’s a huge advantage for them,” Hausfeld said. I told CNBC.

Another key to ESS IronFlow technology is its elasticity.

“Capacity is the same from Year 1 to Year 20,” Hausfeld says. Anyone with a cell phone knows that’s not the case with lithium-ion batteries. “You open it and it comes out of the case, now it gives you 10 hours. We all know it doesn’t give you 10 hours a year, right?”

The energy center is co-located with a solar or wind farm. Solar farms allow you to charge the battery on a day when the sun is shining and discharge the battery, usually in the afternoon when the demand for energy increases.

SB Energy first installed ESS Inc. batteries in Davis, California. SB Energy is an investor and client in ESS. These are batteries purchased by SB Energy.

Photo courtesy of SB Energy

It also works for wind farms. “We can store the wind farm for 4, 8 or 10 hours at midnight and leave it on during the day if needed,” Hausfeld told CNBC. “We see the ESS as a really good complement to the daily cycling between wind and sun.”

The only ESS product to date, the Energy Warehouse, is the size of a shipping container 40 feet long and 8 feet wide.

“The container holds 500 kilowatt-hours of energy, which is the energy needed to power about 20 to 30 homes,” McDermott told CNBC. Rice field.

4 ESS Ink Battery

ESS Inc. photo courtesy of

ESS is also building a product called Energy Center for utilities and independent power producers. For example, a company that owns a large solar power plant and sells its electricity to the grid.

For such large customers, the ESS uses similar battery technology, but the battery modules are incorporated together in the building. Customer testing is scheduled to begin in 2022.

The Big Challenge: Scaling Iron Flow Batteries

Iron-based batteries are a well-known technology, but expanding them is a challenge.

Dan Steingart, an associate professor of chemical metallurgy at Columbia University, said:

But the reality is quite different from this.

“Compared to other available technologies, this class of batteries and their cousins ​​have not been widely adopted due to last-mile engineering challenges, which have added unacceptable capital and operating costs in the past,” Steingert told CNBC. .

Flow batteries rely on highly technical pumps and membranes. “Think of the kidney. It’s written so big that it always works 10,000 times more than needed,” he said. “Indeed, the critical support systems (making the system more expensive than ever) and maintenance calls (moving costs) It was very difficult to operate them reliably without the increase in

However, Stingart said that ESS has raised “substantial capital” to find solutions to these challenges.

In September, ESS also secured a 10-year battery warranty backed by insurance company Munich Re. This is “a strong indication of positive results,” Stingart told CNBC.

Cost is another concern.

“Iron flow battery technology looks very promising because it is safe, environmentally friendly, uses non-toxic materials that can be sourced in the United States, and does not degrade over time or over multiple cycles,” Peninsula CEO said. Jan Pepper said. Clean Energy told CNBC.

Peninsula Clean Energy, a community energy buyer and official electricity provider in San Mateo County, Calif., does not work directly with ESS, but is 100% cost-competitive, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by 2025. We are striving to provide renewable energy. Its energy storage helps achieve those goals.

“The current challenge for iron flow batteries is cost,” the paper says. “If companies like ESS can reduce the cost of their technology, they and others will have a meaningful impact on decarbonization efforts, and organizations like Peninsula Clean Energy are ambitious of us. We can help you reach your goals. ”

Stingart told CNBC, “The goal I use is for it to be in my lab for long-term energy storage. The batteries are about the same price per pound of dog food and are permanent with little interference. needed. “

If ESS can do what investors think, “successful implementation of this chemical will be an important milestone for grid-scale energy storage,” Steingart said.

SoftBank’s Bill Gates-backed battery company ESS opens on the New York Stock Exchange

Source Link SoftBank’s Bill Gates-backed battery company ESS opens on the New York Stock Exchange

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