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Upstart nears finish line on 1st 'CO2 battery,' readies commercial rollout


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Upstart nears finish line on 1st 'CO2 battery,' readies commercial rollout

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Energy Dome is performing testing on an innovative energy storage project in Italy. The company is seeking capital to bring the technology to the U.S.
Source: Energy Dome SpA

Electricity storage upstart Energy Dome SpA is nearing completion of its inaugural "CO2 battery" project in Sardinia, Italy, in a bid to demonstrate the use of CO2 to combat climate change.

"The construction is almost completed and we are in the commissioning phase," Energy Dome CEO Claudio Spadacini said in an interview.

The 2.5-MW/4-MWh demonstration is designed to validate the Milan-based company's unique energy storage approach. The hallmark of the system is an inflatable dome that fills with CO2 when discharging power to the grid and from which CO2 is withdrawn when charging. It relies largely on off-the-shelf equipment, including compressors and turbines, to liquefy and gasify CO2 in a closed-loop cycle.

Backed by Barclays PLC, 360 Capital Partners SAS, Novum Capital Partners SA and other investors, Energy Dome hopes to complete the demonstration project in April and to launch quickly into its next round of fundraising to fuel a global expansion, according to Spadacini.

"Our next step is to demonstrate that we are able to deliver a 25-MW plant, eight-hour duration, for a cost which is ... about 40% less in terms of [capital expenditure] if compared to lithium-ion [batteries]," the CEO said. While Energy Dome is targeting up to 24 hours of storage, eight to 10 hours is the company's "sweet spot" and "what we really need to accelerate the transition" to larger shares of renewable energy on the grid, Spadacini said.

Energy Dome is among a host of young companies seeking to unseat lithium-ion batteries as the technology of choice in energy storage markets, especially for applications requiring more than four hours of discharge.

The first larger-scale facility is also planned in Sardinia, with Italian utility A2A SpA, according to Spadacini.

Energy Dome in early April entered into an agreement with engineering company Ansaldo Energia SpA to collaborate on long-duration energy storage projects in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

"Our agreement with Energy Dome is an important step in Ansaldo's plans to expand our clean energy business with energy storage solutions to help power industry players get the most out of their solar, wind and other renewable energy resources, while ensuring reliability," Giuseppe Marino, CEO of Ansaldo Energia, said in a statement after signing the agreement.

Eyeing US expansion, IPO

Energy Dome also has its sights set on the U.S., where the energy storage market is rapidly maturing and some energy regulators and retail energy suppliers have begun prioritizing longer-duration projects.

"We have to move, one way or another, to the U.S.," Spadacini said. The company is seeking to add a U.S. investor in its forthcoming series B financing to help gain a foothold in a market "where I think we can really make an impact," the CEO said.

After pumping roughly $15 million into Energy Dome so far, the company's existing investors are "ready to inject additional money" upon successful completion of the demonstration project, Spadacini said.

Ultimately, Spadacini would like to take Energy Dome public.

"At least [for] me, as a founder, I'd like to dream for an IPO," Spadacini said. "In order to give the company the vision and the ambition to be global, that is the way to go."

An engineer by training, Spadacini has worked on a wide range of renewable energy projects, including geothermal, concentrating solar, hydropower and biogas. The CEO developed his idea for a CO2-based energy storage system only about three years ago as a way to realize the benefits of compressed air and liquid air technologies, such as reliance on off-the-shelf equipment, with what he touts as a more efficient, more flexible and less expensive approach.

While the technology is "new and proprietary," Spadacini views the use of standard equipment as a key advantage enabling Energy Dome, which started operations in early 2020, to move fast.

"You can be ... skilled, as much as you like, but if you have to [invent] a new chemistry, or if you have to invent something which works at ... 1,500 degrees [C], or you have to invent nuclear fusion, that's really not possible in two years," the CEO said.

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