Newsletter: Saudi Aramco plays with blocks

Here at Canary Media, we relish the chance to sift fact from hype.

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Here at Canary Media, we relish the chance to sift fact from hype. There are bountiful opportunities to do that in the fantastical realm of technologies purporting to store clean energy for hours and hours, completing the puzzle of a zero-carbon grid.

The latest news on that front comes from Energy Vault, whose idea is to make high-tech cranes that stack giant blocks hundreds of feet high. That stores electricity, which gets released by dropping the blocks down to the ground again.

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It’s a novel approach and very different from the lithium-ion batteries that run the market today. And now the world’s largest oil company, Saudi Aramco, wants a piece of the action.

Energy Vault CEO Robert Piconi told me the investment was driven by desire to have Aramco as a strategic partner rather than by a desperate need for cash. Which is good for the startup, because that means it hasn’t burned through the $110 million it raised from SoftBank in 2019.

Key updates include:

  • Energy Vault finished its first commercial-scale project in Switzerland last July. It’s much bigger than usual for long-duration storage startups, which tend to test their tech at small scale for years before they break into the big leagues.
  • The startup is behind on its original promise to build a project for Tata Power in India in 2019.
  • But Energy Vault has eight customer deals signed and will be announcing them in the coming months.

Check out the story for the details.

Elsewhere on Canary Media, we have: 

Julian Spector is an editor at Canary Media and reports on the rise of clean energy. He worked at Greentech Media for nearly five years, and before that he reported for CityLab at The Atlantic.