Indian giant Reliance Industries joined Bill Gates and other international investors to back US start-up Ambri, which aims to deploy its ‘liquid metal’ battery technology as an alternative to lithium-ion systems for large scale renewable energy storage.
Reliance – which recently laid out ambitions to become one of the world’s largest renewables operators – led a $144m financing round for Ambri that also included the Microsoft billionaire, and investors Fortistar, Goehring & Rozencwajg and Japan Energy Fund.
Ambri said it will use the funds to build a manufacturing capability for its batteries, which are based on molten metal technology that emerged more than a decade ago at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and whose chemistry is claimed to offer significant cost, operational and safety benefits to lithium-ion systems.
Plans after the new investment round include manufacturing in India with Reliance New Energy Solar as Ambri’s strategic partner. Reliance in June said it aims to rapidly grow its green energy operations to become India’s largest and a world leader under plans that include deployment of 100GW of solar and a series of ‘giga-factories’ to produce key equipment.
Reliance Industries is one of India’s biggest conglomerates that has major petrochemical interests as well as telecoms and retail assets. Chairman Mukesh Ambani said: “Reliance Industries sees this strategic partnership with Ambri as an important step in its journey of achieving its decarbonisation goals.
“Our investment in Ambri is part of our broader plan to develop the Dhirubhai Ambani Green Energy Giga Complex, which will be amongst the largest integrated renewable energy manufacturing facilities in the world and the epicenter of India’s Green Economy movement.”
Fortistar president Mark Comora said: “This novel, low-cost technology will help integrate more wind and solar power into grids around the globe, especially in areas that are more remote, have been more reliant on fossil fuels, or experience extreme temperatures.”
Ambri says its containerised systems can now be deployed at scales up to 2GWh with durations of four to 24 hours and a 20-year operational life with “minimal degradation”.
Alongside the financing round Ambri also signed a long-term agreement with a supplier of antimony, a key element of its battery chemistry.
The company joins an array of developers of batteries and other storage technologies that aim to secure a share of a boom in demand for grid-scale application alongside large-scale renewables deployments – including others backed by Gates, who is a serial backer of energy innovations.