• Form Energy closes its biggest deal yet for long-duration energy storage
  • Newsletter
  • Donate
Clean energy journalism for a cooler tomorrow

Form Energy closes its biggest deal yet for long-duration energy storage

The startup doesn’t have any projects in commercial operation, but it has snagged another buyer with Georgia Power’s order for a 15 MW/1,500 MWh iron-air battery.
By Julian Spector

  • Link copied to clipboard
A man in a blue blazer and white shirt speaks at a lectern with a U.S. flag nearby under a sign that says form factory one
Form Energy CEO Mateo Jaramillo speaks at a ground-breaking ceremony at the site of the company's under-construction plant in Weirton, West Virginia. (Julian Spector/Canary Media)

Form Energy, one of the best-funded startups tackling the challenge of long-term clean energy storage, closed a definitive agreement” to sell its largest system yet to utility Georgia Power.

Form is in the process of commercializing its iron-air battery, which it says will economically store clean power for delivery over 100 hours straight. If successful, this new technology will take the ups and downs of renewable power production and turn it into a steady source of power for days on end. Researchers have found that some form of dispatchable clean energy like this is necessary to keep the grid reliable while maximizing the share of renewables.

One of Form’s first installations will be a 15-megawatt/1,500-megawatt-hour iron-air battery for Georgia Power, the companies revealed this week. Assuming the project clears regulatory approvals, it could be operational by 2026. In a sign of how stunningly this market is growing, this single project would store more megawatt-hours than every energy storage project installed in the U.S. in 2019.

Several steps need to happen before that potential breakthrough can occur, however. Form needs to finish its quality-control testing for the product and begin commercial-scale production at the factory it is currently constructing in Weirton, West Virginia. The company broke ground at the site of what was once the state’s largest steel mill in May. Form CEO Mateo Jaramillo told Canary Media at the groundbreaking that the facility will ramp up to making 500 megawatts/​50 gigawatt-hours of batteries per year by around 2027.

We are ready to go through this very last stage, which is the scale-up of manufacturing,” Jaramillo said.

Besides building its factory, Form needs to convince more customers to buy its storage equipment, which doesn’t look or act like anything utilities have contracted for before. That task is not trivial, given the reflexively cautious approach utilities take to new technologies; even lithium-ion batteries are still just breaking through in many utility territories, despite their decade-plus track record of large-scale use on the American grid.

But Form has closed a few deals. First came Minnesota cooperative Great River Energy, which ordered a 1-megawatt/150-megawatt-hour system in 2020; that project has yet to be installed. In January 2023, Xcel Energy signed up for two 10-megawatt/1,000-megawatt-hour Form systems to install at outgoing coal plants. Now Georgia Power is topping each of those deals with its order for a 15-megawatt/1,500-megawatt-hour system, something it teased in a resource planning document last year.

That ratio means that the storage installation will be able to instantaneously deliver 15 megawatts of power to the grid — a modest amount for a storage plant these days — but it can do so for up to 100 hours straight. If a few cloudy days block out new solar production, the long-duration batteries could ride through it, delivering clean power all the while. Compare that to lithium-ion plants, which rarely deliver their full capacity for more than four hours; in rare circumstances, they hit eight hours. That limitation prevents them from replacing fossil gas plants, which can generate power as long as the gas keeps flowing.

It’s important to distinguish this from the concept of derating, which is slowing a battery’s discharge down to a trickle so its stored power lasts longer. To make a difference, long-duration energy storage needs to provide enough capacity to meet the needs of the grid, but do it over a long enough span of time to outlast unfavorable weather, at costs radically cheaper than lithium-ion.

Plenty of energy market observers still have trouble imagining how this would work, and how to economically justify a long-duration investment, given that many power markets still struggle with how to accurately assign value even to shorter-duration lithium-ion batteries. Form’s early deployments will require utilities to make a case to their regulators justifying why they think this is a good investment.

Interestingly, Georgia Power isn’t describing this groundbreaking installation as a research and development play for its far-off decarbonization goals. The company instead framed the project as part of the utility’s plan to integrate additional cost-effective clean energy into its system while maintaining grid reliability and resiliency.” It also described it as a way to appeal to large corporate customers, many of which want to nail down firm commitments for clean electricity supply — some tech giants even push for 24/7 clean energy — before they establish new operations in a particular state.

Our customers, including many business and commercial accounts, are increasingly interested in the use of new technologies such as multiday energy storage to help grow renewable energy and enhance reliability, especially as they relocate or grow their operations in Georgia,” Georgia Power CEO Kim Greene said in a statement. Form Energy’s technology is cutting-edge, and we’re excited to continue to work with them to serve our customers.”

In a sign of the company’s enthusiasm, Chris Womack, CEO of corporate parent Southern Company, personally attended the groundbreaking ceremony for Form’s factory in West Virginia.

The ramp-up in factory production needs to be tightly synchronized” with customer demand, Jaramillo said.

What we’re very in the weeds on right now with our customers is to look at that cost curve, to look at that supply curve, look at the demand curve, and make sure that they cross,” Jaramillo said.

It’s too early to gauge Form’s success in the marketplace since it doesn’t have any commercial projects operating yet. But customer announcements like Georgia Power’s indicate Form is making it through the wringer of proving itself to some of the country’s biggest incumbent utilities. That in turn gives Form clarity on when and how to grow its production lines.

Julian Spector is a senior reporter at Canary Media. He reports on batteries, long-duration energy storage, low-carbon hydrogen and clean energy breakthroughs around the world.