Bill Gates helps power up green battery maker Aquion Energy

Bill Gates helps power up green battery maker Aquion Energy

Bill Gates has become the latest investor to back an innovative new water-based battery technology, which promises to store power generated by intermittent renewable energy projects such as wind and solar farms.

Aquion Energy confirmed this week it has raised $35 million in a new funding round for its Aqueious Hybrid Ion batteries and energy storage systems, including an undisclosed sum from the billionaire Microsoft chairman.

The company claims that its batteries are an environmentally benign and cost-effective alternative to existing energy storage technologies that use salt water as an electrolyte rather than costly and hazardous chemicals.

The funding round was led by Bright Capital, while Gates participated as a new investor alongside Gentry Venture Partners. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Foundation Capital and Advanced Technology Ventures also took part in the funding round as returning investors.

The $35 million will add to a $15 million loan facility that Aquion Energy closed last year and follows a $20 million funding round completed in 2011.

The money will be used to commercialize the battery technology with pre-production units expected to be delivered throughout 2013, leading to mass production from its Pennsylvania plant in early 2014.

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Bright Capital managing director Mikhail Chuchkevich predicted the batteries would be crucial to the development of smarter power grids and low carbon energy supplies.

"We expect Aquion's products to be a key enabler for the emerging energy storage industry that many experts predict will grow exponentially in the next decade," he said.

According to Bloomberg, Aquion is the third energy storage company in which Gates has invested, following his backing for LightSail Energy and Ambri.

The Microsoft chairman previously has warned against overreliance on "cute" technologies such as individual solar panels, instead calling for greater investment to identify "breakthrough" low carbon energy technologies which could help provide energy to developing nations.

In addition to supporting energy storage technologies, Gates is also a major backer of research into next-generation nuclear systems, such as traveling wave reactors designed to run for decades while producing minimal levels of radioactive waste. 

This article is reprinted with permission from BusinessGreen. 

Photo of batteries covered with dollars provided by Jezper via Shutterstock.