Bill Gates, chairman Breakthrough Energy Ventures Fund
Michael Gottschalk Photothek via Getty Images
By Natasha Bach
June 12, 2018

Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), the fund launched by the likes of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, and George Soros in 2016, announced at the end of last year that one of its focus areas would be energy storage.

And now the fund is moving on two startups for investment in just that: Form Energy and Quidnet Energy. The startups, revealed by Quartz, were confirmed by a BEV spokesperson who said the company is also actively looking for other companies in which to invest.

This investment is noteworthy, as energy storage has been a costly, and largely ineffective venture thus far. However, BEV has set out to be both patient and risk tolerant, willing to invest in companies “even if they may not provide returns on investment for up to 20 years.”

Quidnet Energy, like conventional energy storage efforts, uses hydro to do so, but pumps the water into underground shale rock wells to create pressure instead of moving the water up to reservoirs (both ways then release the water to power turbines). Form Energy, on the other hand, has reportedly found two types of chemistries that could create cheap batteries that are able to store large amounts of energy for weeks or months—thereby overcoming the limitations of existing lithium-ion batteries that can only store energy for short periods of time.

The $1 billion fund has committed $6.4 million alongside Evok Innovations to Quidnet Energy, and $9 million with Prelude Ventures and other small investors to Form Energy. While the numbers appear small compared to the total value of the fund, Quartz suggests that the investments “signal confidence” from the investors.

With global investment in renewables now outpacing fossil fuels, storage will become an ever-more pressing issue.

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