Published on May 7th, 2014 | by Jake Richardson


Grid-Scale Battery Storage Startup Gets $35 Million More In Funding

May 7th, 2014 by  

Ambri leadership teamAmbri, a startup founded by MIT chemistry professor Dr. Donald Sadoway and David Bradwell, has received another $35 million in venture capital funding from KLP Enterprises, the family office of Karen Pritzker and Michael Vlock, and Building Insurance Bern, a Swiss insurance company, along with existing investors Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates, Total. Other than those three long-time investors, previous investors include the Deshpanded Center and the Chesonis Family Foundation. (The Office of Naval Research also has provided grants for their work.)

The company was founded in 2010 to commercialize the liquid metal battery invented by Sadoway, and was originally called the Liquid Metal Battery Corporation. He has about forty years of experience working with such technology.

Cost-effective energy storage is often referred to as the “holy grail” of the energy industry. It could help renewable energy grow faster, could prevent overall power overcapacity, and could also make the grid more secure and more reliable. Professor Sadoway’s technology is supposed to become a commercial, viable, grid-scale battery storage system. In a 2012 TED talk now with 1.4 million views, he explained, “electricity demand must be in constant balance with electricity supply,” which is challenging without good energy storage technology. He also said that a giant battery system would need to be:

  • very high power
  • uncommonly long-lived
  • affordable.

His slogan about material selection is charming and illuminating: “If you want something that is dirt-cheap, make it out of dirt.” Initially he and his students used magnesium, antimony and salt. (Italian professor Alessandro Volta used copper, zinc and salt in his voltaic pile around the year 1800.)

David Bradwell worked on implementing Professor Sadoway’s first design when he was a graduate student at MIT. Eventually, the team expanded to about twenty students and post docs in total, when funding came through. The company was formed to help accelerate the construction of larger and larger battery prototypes. Dr. Sadoway has emphasized the learning aspect of their research and testing, calling it “inventing inventors.”

There are much smaller grid-tied storage systems that can be used with home solar systems. For example, Wholesale Solar offers a back-up system for a 1,500 watt, six panel array for about $6,000. A similar system with off-grid capability and 21 solar panels would be about $15,000. SolarCity is also offering a home battery pack, but made by Tesla.

Whether we begin using battery storage systems that are massive or home-sized, it seems that electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind might grow even faster if they have this supporting technology to go with them.

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  • ivan33


  • Matt

    “The CTO also suggested that Ambri’s pricing will fall between that of pumped hydro and compressed-air energy storage”
    They have several 35kWh prototypes in 2014, and plan 200kWh production systems in 2015. Could be getting very close!

    • Bob_Wallace

      Apparently they are now building a prototype factory. Working out the process for large scale production.

      I’m giving this one a bit better than 50:50 chance, but early to sex the chicks….

      • RobertPPruitt

        I like the train car energy storage idea better. It has got to be dirt cheap.
        Lay some track going uphill, put a bunch of used train cars on it with electric motors that can double as generators. When excess power flows it moves the train uphill, and when power is needed they automatically start rolling downhill generating electricity.

        They could even be used pretty efficiently to extend how far the electricity could be sent over wires by placing the cars as far away from the solar cells/wind farm as is efficiently possible. Then when a big city needs more electricity because it’s main power source isn’t keeping up it can be sent from the train.
        We have maps of average wind speeds,sunshine, and energy usage for the entire country. A pretty simple computer program could easily tell you us where to put what and how much to get the most efficiency.
        A limited number of gas peaker plants spread around in key places for a just in case backup and we’re all set.

        Now all we need to do is get the government to stop giving all these companies billions upon billions in tax breaks immediately and dump it all into renewables and we could have this wrapped up in a decade or less(if we did interest free government/government backed loans to homeowners for them to also pay for home solar and wind at the same time). Maybe we could make the banks and wall-street loan a few billion to homeowners interest free as a thank-you for us saving their asses and not throwing them in federal prison like Reagan did when he bailed out the S&L’s.

        We also need a good old fashioned Constitutional Amendment to declare energy(and food for that matter) a matter of national security so we can really get control of it and take out most or all of the profit. We paid for most of the grid so these companies could make huge profits. We also pay many of the big business farmers more in subsidies than they can make selling their crops, so instead of lowering the price of corn(for example) what do they do? Decide to sell it to make ethanol to get more subsidies AND make us pay even more for corn since the price went up when the supply went down.
        Sounds like we’re just getting ROYALLY screwed don’t it? Long live the king!!!!

  • Vensonata

    So here is some math. This is based on the off grid package from solar wholesale listed above. They offer a 6 kw pv array and complete storage package for about $16,500. If it includes charge controller and inverter then here is the cost per kilowatt hour averaged over 15 years( the pv will last 35 years but batteries etc will last 15 max) production 6kw= 6 x1400/year x 15 years= 126000 kwhrs. $16,500 divided by 126,000 = 13 cents per kw hour. Better than the grid in many places in u.s. better than virtually any European country grid price by far. Even if it was $20,000 for the package it would be 16 cents kwh. Any math people out there? Am I right? And so what does this mean if I am correct? By the way the pv price per watt is so low now you are better off sizing the array to give you 100% year round than using a back up generator. So this is the new off grid formula: overkill pv array, modest storage (2 days), no generator (or if you want security a little cheap one that may run 5 hours a year).

    • LookingForward

      next year or the year after, it will be cheaper then a new nuke plant 11cents/KWh

      • RobertPPruitt

        Am I wrong in my thinking that the nuke costs do not include the cost of short and long term disposal of all the various radioactive wastes produced nor the cost of dismantling, processing and long term disposal of the radioactive plant itself when it reaches the end of its services life. And does that cost include any breaks/incentives from the government(other than the insanely expensive insurance they don’t have to pay for, thanks to Uncle Sam being nice enough to let us be responsible for if things go to shit of course)

        If it doesn’t, then the costs for a nuke plant are considerably higher, and all those incentives would be better spent on renewables. Not that I’m against nukes, but they should not be the primary source of power, and we really need to get off fossil fuels. We are poisoning the land, air and water so badly now that it is estimated that over 3 million people die ever year from pollution. Of which fossil fuels in all their forms are by far, the main cause of.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Reactor owners are required to put aside money for decommissioning the plant at the end of its life. And they are required to pay for waste disposal.

          New reactors such as are being built at Vogtle receive loan guarantees which put taxpayers at risk if the plant is never complete. And they will receive a production tax credit (PTC) similar to what wind and solar get. The amount and time is a bit less, 2.1 cents vs. 2.3 cents and 8 years as opposed to 10.

          Of course the huge subsidy that nuclear gets, all US nuclear plants, is the taxpayer assumption of liabilities over a few million dollars in the event of a major disaster.

          Japanese taxpayers are on the hook for a minimum of $138 billion with estimates of the final bill exceeding $500 billion.

          • RobertPPruitt

            So except for us being responsible if things go south, nuke isn’t too bad. Now we just need to figure out how to get humans out of the daily operation of nuke plants and we’re all set.

            You did know that the Russian, Japanese and American “accidents” were one way or another, directly caused by humans. Russia tried to do a very dangerous test they had no business trying. Japan had the bright ideas to build the plant both near a fault line and on the coast in an area known for tsunamis. And America, well our nuke plant was doing exactly what it should have been doing to safely shut it down. But a human decided to get involved and start over-riding the system.

            There was nothing wrong with any of the plants themselves, it was all human stupidity.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I wonder if you have ever bothered to read up on all the ‘close calls’ we’ve had with reactors over the years.

            I suspect you haven’t.

            We can’t get humans out of the mix. Humans design reactors. Humans build reactors. Humans operate reactors.


            Humans have to live with radioactive waste. Humans have to live with nuclear disasters.

            Why would we want to live with radioactive waste and the possibility of nuclear disasters when we can avoid both and spend less for our electricity?
            Why do some people love nuclear so much that they want everyone’s utility bills to increase? That is what is really puzzling to me.

    • RiverMikeRat

      I’ve actually settled on 150% of full-use needs production in the array with 72 hours minimum of battery. The overkill helps ensure that the days that are too cloudy to provide for my needs with just the solar are few and far between. 72 hours of present use allows me to take in certain people when/if the need arises, for a few days. I’ve also considered the idea of 2 or 3 possibly temporary turbines for those “just in case” moments.

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