SoftBank Vision Fund announced on August 15 that it has invested $110m in Energy Vault, a Swiss start-up that is developing energy storage technology. As nations come under pressure to reduce their carbon emissions, many have pledged to switch to renewable energy sources. However, one of the biggest challenges they face is how to store energy at scale.
Energy Vault hopes to solve this problem. Using towers of huge cement bricks, each weighing 35 tonnes, it can store the energy generated by solar or wind power plants. Software controls the movements of these bricks so that power is charged and discharged in response to changes in power availability across an electric grid.
This is the first time SoftBank has invested in an energy company – an unusual move considering the early stages of the company’s development
Energy stored in the towers can be delivered for less than the cost of fossil fuels at any hour of the day. Energy Vault states that, while it’s unlikely the storage technology will ever be commonly found in cities, the towers are well suited to remote locations.
Energy Vault’s journey began at Idealab, a Californian start-up incubator. Having officially launched in late 2018, the start-up has since partnered with CEMEX, a Mexican building materials company, and India’s Tata Power. Once Energy Vault has completed its test phase, it will build its first commercially functioning site.
This is the first time SoftBank has invested in an energy company – an unusual move considering the early stages of the company’s development. However, according to Akshay Naheta, Managing Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisors, the company believes Energy Vault could scale quickly.
The $110m investment in Energy Vault testifies to a growing demand for renewable energy storage technologies that will no doubt continue to accelerate in the coming years. According to a report by GlobalData, the global energy storage market is expected to reach 22.2GW in 2023, up from almost 5GW at the end of 2018. Vision Fund’s move is a green light for the market and is likely to trigger other large investments in the technology.