These Ultra-Cheap Iron-Air Batteries Are Getting Their Own $760 Million Factory


Form Energy has an innovative iron-air technology that claims to be better than lithium “big battery” projects at 10% of the cost.

Form’s grid-scale batteries are built around huge flat iron-air cells, about a meter (3.3 ft) square, around 50 of which are slotted into modules the size of a washing machine and bathed in a liquid electrolyte. They are charged by applying energy to iron oxide, turning it back into metallic iron, then adding oxygen to initiate the rusting process and release energy.

Since iron is present in large quantities and is cheap, the whole setup is quite economical. It is also safe and sustainable.  They have a Levelized Cost of Storage (LCoS) which is more than 10 times lower than lithium batteries.

They will most likely work with lithium grid batteries in hybrid configurations. Form says that at scale, they’ll deliver more than 3 MW of output capacity per acre.

This is great as you need this sort of storage when there’s a terrible storm for several days that cuts solar and wind production. Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures has been on board for some time, along with Luxembourg steel giant ArcelorMittal and many others. A Series E investment round made them have US$450 million, bringing the company’s total funding to over US$800 million.

Last month, the company announced it had chosen a site for its first American battery manufacturing plant: a 55-acre facility in the city of Weirton, West Virginia. The project is worth US$760 million and will create jobs for 750 people, with construction expected to start later this year and the first iron-air batteries to start rolling out in 2024 “for broad commercialization.”


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