Form Energy’s iron-Air grid battery is going to make real impact

Backed by technology powerhouses Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, startup Form Energy is going to turn the tides in renewable energy storage with its groundbreaking iron-air battery system.

For large electrical grids to move toward 100% renewable energy, grid operators need clever, affordable, practical and eco-friendly ways to store up energy that’s generated at inconvenient times, and then release it when demand is outstripping supply. This needs to happen on different timescales; some of this grid smoothing needs to happen on a daily basis, and that’s an area where lithium “big battery” projects are already doing a great job. But lithium is less suited to longer-duration storage; it doesn’t like staying fully charged for days or months at a time, so other, slower, bulk storage options are being developed to buffer energy grids against multi-day bad weather spells and seasonal lulls in renewable generation.

Form Energy is working in the multi-day space, commercializing a relatively simple, modular battery solution based around the rust cycle of iron. Charging these washing-machine-sized battery modules up uses electricity to convert rust, or iron oxide, into metallic iron, and releases oxygen as a by-product. Discharging the batteries requires oxygen to be put back into the system, and turns the metallic iron to rust, releasing energy in the process.

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