June 2, 2023 4:30 pm

Vessels represent the future of stationary battery installations around the world.EnerVenue.com

How is it that the news of EnerVenue’s building a 1 million-square foot Gigafactory in Kentucky not leading every news broadcast in the nation? In my opinion, it should be.

EnerVenue CEO, Jorg Heinemann

EnerVenue.com

EnerVenue made the announcement about the Kentucky facility in late March, revealing it will be capable of producing up to 1.5 gigawatt-hours of energy storage capacity per year (enough to power more than one million homes). According to CEO Jorg Heinemann, this big step is just the first of many; over the next few years, EnerVenue plans to build other plants in North America, totaling around 20 gigawatt-hours per year of manufacturing capacity.

The company can literally not build extra capacity fast enough. Heinemann confided to me that EnerVenue is sitting on 7.0 gigawatt-hours of backlog. In other words, over four and a half years of the new Kentucky facility’s production was spoken for as soon as the groundbreaking ceremony’s ribbon was cut. And customers are trying to move ahead in the backlog line by paying a premium for their orders.

Reread that last sentence and you can understand why I am so bullish on EnerVenue’s future.

For those of you for who are not familiar with EnerVenue, take a look back at the article I wrote a few years ago for this column entitled EnerVenue: The Batteries We Need For Grid-Scale Storage and my December 2021 story about EnerVenue closing a heavily oversubscribed Series A fundraising round led by SLB (NYSE: SLB, formerly Schlumberger) and Saudi Aramco.

one of these beauties, but EnerVenue Storage Vessels are great for stationary storage.EnerVenue.com

From where I am sitting, EnerVenue’s innovative metal-hydrogen batteries—adapted from a technology that has been proven in space satellite applications for years—have the potential to reshape grid-scale and industrial energy storage applications worldwide. It is not hard for me to imagine EnerVenue’s Energy Storage Vessels becoming the standard battery technology for all stationary installations.

EnerVenue’s batteries are durable, efficient, and recyclable; they are also safer and much less finicky than lithium-ion, and they allow for flexibility in charging speed. Batteries using a similar chemistry—nickel-hydrogen—have completed millions of cell-hours’ worth of charge/discharge cycles in orbital spacecraft, so EnerVenue feels comfortable offering buyers a 20-year / 20,000-cycle guarantee.

These are the advantages EnerVenue talks about in its press releases, but I believe there are a few other benefits that cannot and should not be overlooked.

First, the materials used in the batteries are readily available on every continent, reducing the fragility and carbon footprint of the supply chain and allowing for localization of production. I was appalled when I recently read a book about the lithium-ion battery supply chain called Cobalt Red, which sheds light on the systematic of exploitation of workers—many of whom are children—in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Let’s put it this way: if you use any product running on a lithium-ion battery, it is almost certain that you are the beneficiary of child slavery.

cassiterite mine of Lukushi on February 17, 2022 in Manono. – The Democratic Republic of Congo is rich with Lithium, an essential mineral for electric car batteries, which nests in the remains of the former mining town of the city of Manono in the south-east of the country in the province of Tanganyika. To get out of poverty, the inhabitants of Manono, most of whom are artisanal diggers, place their hope in the investment of the Australian company AVZ minerals which plans to invest 600 million dollars in the construction of a lithium mining (Photo by Junior KANNAH / AFP) (Photo by JUNIOR KANNAH/AFP via Getty Images)AFP via Getty Images

The fact that EnerVenue batteries do not require the use of scarce or raw materials that are geographically concentrated in jurisdictions run by corrupt strongmen is a huge positive in my view.

Second, the form factor of the EnerVenue batteries is large and their construction does not require delicate micro-engineering. In fact, Heinemann tells me that a human with a simple mechanical jig can build an EnerVenue battery that meets operational specifications. What this means is that EnerVenue facilities need not be set up with fancy, custom-built robotics. EnerVenue can use off-the-shelf production equipment and can train workers to build and inspect the units easily. This simplification cuts the capital costs of EnerVenue’s facilities substantially versus those of a lithium-ion facility and, I believe, should cut the operating costs as well.

The economic and technical advantages of EnerVenue’s technology are obvious; so obvious that the smart money has already placed a large bet on this Fremont, California start-up that was born out of a Stanford University lab. One of the five pillars of SLB’s New Energy business unit is energy storage, and EnerVenue’s storage solution is the cornerstone on which SLB is resting its stationary battery installation offering.

in the front row wearing a blue shirt. CTO Dr. Yi Cui is in the front row wearing a gray jacket.EnerVenue.com

I am dying to have an attic full of EnerVenue’s batteries myself, but alas, Heinemann tells me that he is focused on grid and industrial customers right now. Even if I can’t have some friendly, orange Energy Storage Vessels in my own attic, I am hoping that my local utility will take a page out of Dr. Lorenzo Kristov’s distributed grid model and set up a base layer of community storage to make my community more resilient and self-sufficient.

Heinemann and Kristov know, as I know, that if we are to have a chance at sustaining human civilization’s advances and maintaining the viability of our biosphere, we must radically rethink the way we use and distribute power.

Intelligent investors take note.

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Most of my professional life has been spent as an equity analyst and as a consultant. Now I am leveraging my experience in the financial markets to help start-up ventures fight climate change and restore our ecosystem. Before becoming a Forbes contributor, I worked as a hedge fund risk manager, an investment banker in Tokyo and New York, a Market Strategist for Morningstar and as the Director of Research for a financial data start-up in Chicago as well as publishing a well-reviewed book about options (The Intelligent Option Investor, 2014, McGraw-Hill). My expertise in valuing private and public companies has been sought out by institutions such as the World Bank and Blackrock, and I have served as CFO and COO / CFO for several ClimateTech start-ups.

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