SoftBank invests $110m in Swiss renewables start-up Energy Vault

15 Aug 2019

CEO of SoftBank, Masayoshi Son. Image: Imaginechina-Editorial/Depositphotos

SoftBank Vision Fund has made its first investment in energy storage, putting $110m behind Swiss start-up Energy Vault.

On Wednesday (14 August), SoftBank Vision Fund announced that it had made its first-ever investment in energy storage technology. The fund invested $110m into Swiss renewable energy storage start-up Energy Vault.

The energy start-up will use the $110m Series B funding to accelerate the global deployment of its technology, which the company says “enables renewables to deliver baseload power for less than the cost of fossil fuels, 24 hours a day”.

Partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, Andreas Hansson, will join the Energy Vault board of directors following the investment.

In a statement regarding this announcement, Energy Vault pointed out that renewable energy sources have yet to fully replace fossil fuel power. This is due to production unpredictability and intermittency from reliance on variable factors, like wind and sunlight.

“In the absence of more efficient and cost-effective storage, the amount of electricity that can be delivered to the grid from renewable energy sources, even though now widely affordable, has been limited,” the company added.

This is why Energy Vault developed a new solution, which it describes as being “based on the same well-understood fundamentals of physics and mechanical engineering” used in pumped hydro plants. However, the start-up replaces water with a tower of custom-made composite bricks that stores energy from solar and wind sources.

Energy Vault also uses software that autonomously orchestrates the energy storage tower’s operations, using proprietary algorithms that account of a variety of factors, such as energy supply and demand volatility, grid stability, weather elements and other variables.

Since launching in November 2018, Energy Vault has developed a relationship with Cemex, which includes a technology collaboration and development agreement.

The start-up also has an agreement with India’s largest integrated power company, The Tata Power Company, and has plans to demonstrate the first 35Mwh storage tower in the north of Italy later this year.

Akshay Naheta, managing partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, said: “Energy Vault solves a long-standing and complex problem of how to store renewable energy at scale.

“The company’s integration of proven technologies with 21st century material science and machine vision software provides a solution that reshapes the unit economics of renewable energy while being restorative to the environment.”

Energy Vault’s CEO and co-founder, Robert Piconi, added: “As we pursue our mission to enable renewable energy to replace fossil fuels 24 hours a day, we’re thrilled to partner with SoftBank Vision Fund as we expand our global presence.

“The Vision Fund shares our passion to combat climate change through innovation in energy storage technologies and with its support as a strategic partner, Energy Vault is well-positioned to meet the large and currently unmet demand for sustainable and economical energy storage worldwide.”

CEO of SoftBank, Masayoshi Son. Image: Imaginechina-Editorial/Depositphotos

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic