Bill Gates Makes Big Investments in Batteries

Date: Jun 21, 2018

Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), the $1-billion venture capital fund led by Bill Gates, has chosen energy storage for its first investment.

Energy storage, while still a tiny portion of the electric grid, is the hottest technology in the electric power sector and is being hailed as the Holy Grail of renewable energy for its ability to address the intermittency inherent in wind and solar power generation.

“Viable energy storage is a key component of the transition to a cleaner grid,” says Tim Grejtak, an analyst at Lux Research.

For its first investment, BEV chose two companies outside mainstream energy storage, which is dominated by lithium ion batteries that have captured about 90% of the energy storage market, according to GTM Research.

BEV with Evok Innovations committed $6.4 million to Quidnet Energy and, with Prelude Ventures, $9 million to Form Energy.

Both start-ups are pursuing new takes on existing technologies. Quidnet is developing a variation on pumped hydro storage, one of the oldest energy storage technologies. Instead of pumping water uphill to a holding reservoir until high demand or spiking electricity prices warrant its release, the company pumps water underground into depleted or nearly depleted shale formations where it is stored under pressure until it is released to run a conventional hydro turbine.

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