An energy technology pioneer, Form Energy, with the backing of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson has revealed the site of the first factory to manufacture ‘iron-air’ batteries for long-term wind and solar energy storage. In Weirton, West Virginia, Form Energy says it will build a $760m debut plant using its technology that stores massive amounts of renewable energy for days at a time.
Over the past few years, Form Energy has attracted an array of high-profile investors, including Microsoft billionaire Gates, Amazon tycoon Bezos and Virgin founder Branson, as well as steel giant ArcelorMittal. The company claims its scalable, modular technology as a solution to one of the biggest challenges facing the energy transition – storing renewable energy for long enough periods to compensate for prolonged high demand, or low wind and solar generation, periods beyond the capacity of lithium-ion batteries.
In recent weeks, wind output slumps have been a hot topic in Europe, with the phenomenon widely known as Dunkellaute – a German word meaning dark doldrums – raising concerns over renewables’ variability. To fill the gaps, the only solution currently available is to rely on gas or even coal-fired plants to step in.
According to Form Energy, its technology is based on low-cost iron, water, and air, which are among the safest, most inexpensive, and most abundant materials available on the planet. Compared with green hydrogen, long-duration energy storage can be deployed faster and more economically.
According to the company, iron-air technology is capable of storing electricity for 100 hours at a cost that is competitive with legacy power plants. With the company’s pioneering multi-day battery, the electric system will be able to run on low-cost renewable energy 24/7. As reported in 2021 by Form Energy, the battery modules will produce electricity at one-tenth the cost of any technology currently available for grid storage.