U.S. advanced battery startup Form Energy nabs $70 million in funding: CEO

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Form Energy, a startup planning to make battery systems that can efficiently store wind and solar energy for long periods of time, recently landed its biggest batch of funding, its chief executive told Reuters on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Wind turbines operate at sunrise in the Permian Basin oil and natural gas production area in Big Spring, Texas, February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

Mateo Jaramillo, the chief executive and co-founder of Massachusetts-based Form Energy, said the company has closed Series C funding of more than $70 million, a milestone that had not been previously reported. Funding in the company now totals more than $120 million. Jaramillo did not name the investors, but said details will be released in a couple weeks.

“It’s an acknowledgement from these new investors ... that this market is here and coming faster than people had realized,” Jaramillo told Reuters. He spoke during a video interview that will be part of Reuters Events Energy Transition North America next week.

Renewable energy advocates see improvements in battery storage as the missing piece of the puzzle that can help nudge gas and coal burning power plants out of the market.

Jaramillo, who previously headed the stationary battery team at Tesla TSLA.O, co-founded Form Energy in 2017. His company aims to make batteries that can dispatch energy for days, greatly expanding the ability to supply electricity generated from wind and solar power to the grid.

Current batteries, mostly made from lithium-ion, only last about four hours. Combining new and current batteries could provide a source of “renewable baseload” power with potential to replace plants that burn natural gas and coal, that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases.

While making such a plan commercial is an ambitious undertaking, any success with the technology could assist President-elect Joe Biden with his campaign plan to make the power grid free of carbon emissions by 2035.

“Certainly there’s a good chance for there to be sort of an extra boon for us in the market,” Jaramillo said of Biden’s plan to make tackling climate change one of the pillars of his platform. “But I will say that (power) storage maybe is the last remaining bipartisan issue in Congress,” he said.

Form is keeping the chemicals and materials expected to be used in its batteries secret, but Jaramillo said they are “fundamentally abundant and cheap.”

Form has received previous funding from Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, The Engine, which is affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Prelude Ventures, a climate impact venture capital fund, and others.

Lockheed Martin LMT.N is among the other companies hoping to build long duration batteries to expand use of renewable power on the grid.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Gregorio