The Anonymous Widower

Will The Real Form Energy Please Stand Up!


Form Energy appears to be a start-up, that claims it has the solution to low-cost long-term energy storage.

The home page of their web site is little more than this headline.

We are developing long duration energy storage systems to enable a fully renewable, affordable and reliable electric system.

And a few links to press releases and a link marked See How.

I clicked it and got this page, with this mission statement.

We are going about this by developing a new kind of battery that would eliminate the need for coal and gas entirely, and allow for a 100% renewable, carbon free grid.

They say this about the technology.

Form Energy has identified and is developing a novel approach that is low-cost, safe, and scalable. This battery would allow for a 100% renewable, carbon free grid.

And this about the software.

Form Energy offers a software solution to the industry that models the efficiency and cost-saving benefits of using Form’s long duration storage and identifies value to the entire electricity ecosystem.

Now that I can understand.

When I was writing software, I wrote any number of models in project management, finance and engineering systems and I don’t doubt, that they have developed a sophisticated software system, that can model a large electricity network.

It would allow the following.

  • Predictions to be made for the future, based on historic data and schedules for new plant coming on stream.
  • It would have a graphical interface, so that changes to the power network could be performed quickly and easily.
  • It would predict the size and capacities of Form Energy’s batteries, that would be needed.
  • It could be used to model ways out of a serious breakdown in part of the grid.

I suspect that National Grid in the UK, EDF in France and other national equivalents, have been running such software systems for many years.

A Deal With Great River Energy

Does this press release on their web site, which is entitled Form Energy Announces Pilot with Great River Energy to Enable the Utility’s Transition to an Affordable, Reliable and Renewable Electricity Grid, give any more details about Form Energy’s technology?

This paragraph lays out the basics of the deal with Great River Energy.

Form Energy, a company developing ultra-low-cost, long-duration energy storage for the grid, today announced it signed a contract with Minnesota-based utility Great River Energy to jointly deploy a 1MW / 150MWh pilot project to be located in Cambridge, MN. Great River Energy is Minnesota’s second-largest electric utility and the fifth largest generation and transmission cooperative in the U.S.

The next paragraph gives a few details of the battery.

This system will be the first commercial deployment of Form Energy’s proprietary long-duration energy storage system. Form Energy’s aqueous air battery system leverages some of the safest, cheapest, most abundant materials on the planet and offers a clear path to transformationally low-cost, long-duration energy storage. The project with Great River Energy will be a 1-MW, grid-connected storage system capable of delivering its rated power continuously for 150 hours, far longer than the two to four hour usage period common among lithium-ion batteries being deployed at utility-scale today. This duration allows for a fundamentally new reliability function to be provided to the grid from storage, one historically only available from thermal generation resources.

A battery capable of storing 150 MWh and capable of delivering 1 MW for 150 hours is certainly impressive.

More About The Deal

This article on Green Tech Media is entitled Long Duration Breakthrough? Form Energy’s First Project Tries Pushing Storage To 150 Hours.

A few points from the article.

  • Bill Gates, Macquarie Capital and Eni are backers of Form Energy.
  • The aim is to have the plant online in 2023.
  • Great River Energy depends heavily on Coal Creek power station, which is a 1151 MW lignite-fired power station, which is to be shut down in the second half of 2022.
  • Form expect their battery to be competitive with lithium-ion on a per KW basis.
  • A battery takes up about an acre.
  • Batteries have a twenty-year life.

The article also says that Form is not sharing many details of its technology.

Can Great River Energy Replace The Power From Coal Creek With Wind Turbines And A 150 MWh Battery?

Consider these points from the Green Tech Media article and Wikipedia.

  • Coal Creek power station provides half of Great River Energy’s needs.
  • Coal Creek power station is rated at 1151 MW,
  • Coal Creek power station will shut in 2022.
  • Great River Energy intends to add 1,100 MW of wind turbines.
  • North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota seem to be states where it is worth reaping the wind.

So can all this power and the disruption of shutting Coal Creek power station be balanced by one relatively small 180 MWh battery?

I have modelled systems as complex as this in finance, project management and process engineering and if Form Energy have done their modelling to a very detailed level and they say that a 1MW/180 MWh system will be big enough, then I’ll go along with that!

In my long experience of mathematical modelling of complex systems, the answer at the end, is often not what many expect.

So the answer must be extensively tested.

What Technology Are Form Using?

The press release about the deal with Great River Energy mentions an aqueous air battery system!

Water and air are not exotic materials and are readily available in most parts of the world. I would suspect that the only way to store large amounts of energy in air is to liquify it, as Highview Power is doing in their CRYOBattery. But where does the water come in?

Could both companies be following different routes using similar properties of two of the greenest and most abundant substances on the planet?

I also know from a very beneficial personal financial experience, that aqueous-air mixes have unusual properties.

Highview Power liquify air and then use a turbine to recover the energy.

Are Form also using liquified air and then using a different method based on the unusual properties of aqueous-air mixes to recover the energy?

I can’t wait for the secret of their technology to emerge!

A Comparison Of Form Energy And Highview Power

The Wikipedia entry for Highview Power, says this about their capabilities and what they are proposing to deliver.

It has permission for a commercial-scale 50 Megawatt/250 Megawatt-hour plant in England, building upon its earlier 5 Megawatt and 350 Kilowatt pilot plants. It plans to develop a 50MW plant/400MWh (eight hours of storage) in Vermont

Is 5 MW for eight hours more impressive than 1 MW for one hundred and fifty hours?

  • Highview Power’s proposed Vermont battery is not far short of three times the size of Form’s Great River battery.
  • Highview Power’s battery can supply five times the maximum current, than Form’s.
  • Liquid air storage is very scalable, as you just add more tanks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see systems storing around a GWh of electricity.
  • Could Highview’s battery supply 2 MW for two hundred hours? I suspect it could!

If it was a relay race, I would think that Highview Power are ahead after the first leg.

The following legs will be interesting.

  • Both companies have backers with enormous pockets.
  • Form have disclosed they have sophisticated modelling software.
  • Form seem to have a firm order.
  • Highview Power are in a country, that in the next couple of years will bring vast amounts of wind power on-line.
  • Great River will have a power shortage, when Coal Creek lignite-fired power station is closed.

But above all the world needs terra-watt hours of affordable, zero-carbon energy storage.


May 9, 2020 Posted by | Energy Storage | , , , | 2 Comments