Indian utility NTPC and gravity storage startup Energy Vault eye strategic partnership

NTPC, an Indian state-owned power producer and utility company, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Energy Vault, the startup seeking to commercialize new energy storage technology.

Swiss-American company Energy Vault is developing a gravity-based energy storage system (ESS) that involves raising and lowering blocks made of a concrete-like composite material that each weigh several tons to store and release Energy.

The company has raised significant investment funds, including $195 million in private equity investments (PIPE) that have been committed for its listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

Energy Vault listed in February this year after a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Novus Capital Corporation II. PIPE investors included Korea Zinc and Atlas Renewable, the latter company set up to facilitate investments and partnerships with China’s renewable energy and power sectors.

This is despite Energy Vault stating before the SPAC merger that its grid-scale ESS technology was far from perfect. Although it has built a demo project in Switzerland to date, a complete overhaul of the system has since been unveiled.

What was originally a giant tower swinging weights suspended from cranes now looks more like a rectangular building frame filled with elevators.

Meanwhile, NTPC, by some metrics India’s largest power utility with over 65GW of assets in its portfolio, said in June 2021 that it was looking to install 1,000MWh energy storage on the sites of its existing electricity production facilities.

This was seen as quite a big announcement given that the name NTPC originally stood for National Thermal Power Corporation and came amid growing interest in encouraging the deployment of energy storage – particularly from batteries – in India at national and state government level as well as private industry.

India is targeting the deployment of 500 GW of renewable energy by 2030, with energy storage seen as a key way to support and enable this. A 1,000 MWh stand-alone energy storage tender was recently launched by the National Solar Energy Company of India (SECI), for example.

Energy Vault and NTPC have signed the Memorandum of Understanding which will see the pair conduct a joint feasibility study of Energy Vault EVx gravity storage technology and associated software solutions.

Based on the results of this initial collaboration, a formal long-term strategic partnership could be formed, Energy Vault said yesterday. EVx technology’s composite weight blocks could also be made from coal ash as a component, which could offer NTPC a pathway to reuse some of its power plant waste.

“As a large integrated power producer, having a diversified clean energy portfolio is essential for NTPC to decarbonize India’s economy. We have upgraded our renewable capacity addition targets to spearhead India’s energy transition goals and are focusing on solar, wind, 24-hour renewable energy and hybrid projects to meet the goals,” said NTPC Managing Director and Chairman Gurdeep Singh. .

“Collaborating with Energy Vault will help NTPC pursue its energy transition goals through a sustainable approach using coal ash for the manufacture of composite blocks. As a result, this collaboration will also promote a circular economy.

Energy Vault CEO Robert Picconi said the collaboration with NTPC builds on a continued global expansion strategy for the energy storage startup. Earlier this year, he claimed a 100 MWh EVx project in China is expected to begin construction in the second quarter of 2022.