ORIX to Invest in U.S.-Based Next-Generation Large-Scale Energy Storage Startup
ORIX Corporation, a leading integrated financial services group, today announced it has acquired a stake in the U.S.-based startup UniEnergy Technologies, LLC (“UET”), which develops and manufactures advanced large-scale energy storage systems. ORIX has acquired 10% of the voting rights in the holding company that owns 100% of UET’s stock by purchasing preferred voting shares that the holding company issued through a third-party allocation.
UET is a startup founded in 2012 by two researchers who developed a next-generation vanadium electrolyte while working at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). UET is licensing the vanadium electrolyte technology from PNNL under a long-term competitive agreement. The next-generation vanadium redox flow battery (VRB) commercialized into a utility-class system by UET can be left charged for long periods of time, easily accommodates large capacities, and is long-lasting compared to existing energy storage technologies. By significantly increasing the energy density and operating temperature of the electrolyte, UET has also succeeded in reducing the VRB’s installation space, a drawback from the previous VRB technologies.
An integrated manufacturer of vanadium energy storage systems based in Dalian, China took note of UET’s technological capabilities and has held a stake in the startup since its founding. Now, ORIX is joining as an investor through a sale of shares aimed at business expansion. Besides working to expand sales in the U.S. market, UET also has its sights set on future expansion in the Chinese and Japanese markets with the partnership of its shareholders.
In the U.S., renewable power generation has been growing due to public investment and regulatory policy. As a result, large-scale energy storage systems are increasingly being installed to stabilize and make more resilient power supplies which can be affected by factors such as renewable intermittency, weather disruptions, and other electric grid events. There is also an intensifying drive among large energy consumers like commercial buildings to lower their electricity bills by using large-scale energy storage systems to reduce demand charges billed based on peak energy usage. Against this backdrop, the U.S. market for large-scale energy storage systems is projected to exceed 1 billion dollar in 2019, a nearly eightfold increase from 2014 .