Since the invention of electricity, one of the greatest challenges has been how to store it efficiently in large quantities. Over the years, different technologies have been created to address this issue and they have continued to evolve as the search for a more efficient solution continues.
This is the aim of the startup Form Energy, whose staff describe themselves as a small team of passionate people committed to helping the world transition to renewable energy using technology and exploring the value of long-duration storage. "Form Energy is developing an ultra-low-cost, long-duration battery that can be combined with cheap renewable to completely replace CO2 emitting generation” says Marco Ferrara, co-founder of Form Energy.
The idea is disruptive because it increases the duration range to something that was previously thought to be impossible. “If you look at typical batteries, like Tesla’s, for example, they give you around two or four hours of duration. With our solution, we can give you several days, in terms of the batteries’ energy storage,” Ferrara adds.
"Innovation is changing the course of humankind in fundamental ways, and to our betterment."
Marco Ferrara, co-founder of Form Energy
The same battery can also have several other applications. For example, “it can minimise the buildout of transmission and distribution infrastructure by providing a distributed, low-cost inventory of several days’ worth of electricity.” This also means disruption in terms of cost.
Building a new energy storage world with Enel
Form Energy’s core technology was invented at MIT (the Massachussets Institute of Technology) and is supported by leading investors in the sector, including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, MIT’s The Engine, and Prelude Ventures. The Director of Innovation at Enel Green Power North America, Sander Cohan, and the innovation energy storage team went to meet with Form Energy’s staff at the MIT Engine. After many conversations, joint analytics exercises and brainstorming sessions, the two companies developed a strong relationship. The Enel Foundation, as an organisation that is an expert in this type of work, is providing the funding and guidance for this initial interaction between EGP and Form Energy.
“We are currently conducting a joint study of the value of long-duration storage with Enel Green Power and Enel Foundation, which will lead to the identification of opportunities to jointly pilot Form Energy’s battery technology,” explains Ferrara. Sander Cohan adds: “This is a case where Form’s mission is distinctly aligned with that of Enel Green Power. We both know that long-duration energy storage will play a key role in the future of renewable energy, and by working together we combine Form’s technical expertise with Enel’s market knowledge and customer perspective in order to imagine what this future will look like. In this way we will make sure we are ready take advantage of the opportunity.”
The experience of working together has been very positive to date. According to Ferrara, “All the professionals we have interacted with have been very insightful and helpful. Furthermore, the global scope of the company allows us to jointly explore opportunities in all areas of the electricity sector and all geographical locations.” Sander Cohan, on the other hand, believes that “It has been exciting working with Form Energy. This project is a first step down a road that will lead us to a new way of designing and developing utility-scale renewables.”
A brilliant future on the horizon
At Form Energy, the founders think that tough technology problems can only be solved with a combination of scientific innovation and hard work. For Ferrara, to be a innovator also requires the following characteristics: “Detail-oriented, well grounded, humble, ambitious, hard-working and an out-of-the-box thinker.” The members of the Form Energy team all have these characteristics and they are determined to keep working.
“We are developing meaningful scale prototypes and testing the technology in our labs. At the same time, we are working with Enel and Enel Green Power in understanding the value of this technology. In two or three years, we will be ready to deploy the first pilot projects in the field,” Ferrara explains.
This technology is not only interesting, but also necessary, as Ferrara concludes: “There is no greater problem than climate change: it involves transitioning our whole energy infrastructure from CO2-emitting fuels to clean electricity. That’s why at Form Energy we want to develop transformative battery storage technology that can make the renewable generation fully reliable and controllable.”