- Swiss energy storage company Energy Vault announced a $100 million investment from SoftBank's Vision Fund, one of the largest technology investors in the world, in a press release on Thursday.
- The investment came as part of a Series B funding round and marks SoftBank's first investment in the energy storage space, according to a news release. Energy Vault said that it will use the funds to accelerate the global development of its gravity storage technology.
- This marks one of the first meaningful investments for gravity storage, Yayoi Sekine, energy storage analyst at BloombergNEF (BNEF), told Utility Dive. "Lithium-ion batteries dominate the energy storage space, accounting for about 90% of energy storage installations year-on-year (excluding pumped hydro)," she said.
The investment of Japan-based SoftBank, which has made a name for itself by pouring money into technology companies such as Uber, WeWork and Slack, further validates the growth of the energy storage industry.
"The size of SoftBank investment in Energy Vault is impressive," Sekine said. "It shows that they clearly believe in the growth of the energy storage industry, an industry that we expect to grow to 10 times its size by 2025."
The U.S. energy storage market interconnected a total of 760.3 MWh last year, an increase of 44.9% over 2017, according to a recent report by the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA). The industry is expect to continue its growth, with BNEF predicting in its latest report that global energy storage deployment will increase 122-fold over the next two decades to 1,095 GW/2,850 GWh by 2040.
While the vast majority of investments in the energy storage sector have gone to lithium-ion battery manufacturers, SoftBank's bet on Energy Vault's gravity-based technology could spur a funding influx in other energy storage concepts.
"I think this is going to make everybody else take notice," Raj Prabhu, CEO and co-founder of Mercom Capital Group, told Utility Dive. "SoftBank is coming in and it's not a small amount, it's over $100 million. You're probably going to see a lot more investors start paying attention even a little bit now more after this investment. Long-duration technologies like gravity and others are all looked upon now as possible and fundable."
Prabhu added that while the the low-cost and low-tech aspect of Energy Vault's storage system may have attracted SoftBank's investment, the technology has to prove its capabilities in real-time situations.
Energy Vault uses recycled concrete blocks to erect a tower that stores and releases energy. The company expects to demonstrate its first 35 MWh storage tower north of Italy in 2019.
"Energy Vault solves a long-standing and complex problem of how to store renewable energy at scale," Akshay Naheta, managing Partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, said in a statement.
SoftBank's $110 million outlay is adding to an already strong investment for storage systems. Battery storage companies have raised a combined $1.4 billion in venture capital funding during the first six months of 2019, up from $543 million during the same time period last year, according to a recent Mercom Capital Group report.