Tesla co-founder and CTO JB Straubel said in the past that he probably “likes batteries more than he likes cars”, but it looks like his interest in batteries extend to other forms of energy storage. He showed his continued interest in the technology today by securing an investment in a new energy storage startup called ‘Axiom Exergy’, according to the company.
Axiom is building energy storage systems tailored for large refrigeration needs, primary for grocery stores. Energy storage is still an expensive technology that often doesn’t make financial sense, but Axiom is betting that it does for grocery stores because of their high peak power demand and their need for backup power in case of outages in order for the refrigeration to keep running to protect perishable inventory.
Their system, called The Refrigeration Battery, works by using the existing refrigeration system’s excess capacity to “store cooling” at night by freezing a tank of salt water. The system can then use the stored energy to shift up six hours of an average grocery store’s refrigeration-based electricity load.
You might think that it’s a niche market, but if so, it looks like a big niche for the company’s president and co-founder, Amrit Robbins:
“Central refrigeration accounts for 9.1 percent of electricity consumption in US commercial buildings. Energy storage for addressing peak demand needs, load shifting and backup power is critical for this multi-billion-dollar slice of the energy pie. We’re very excited to find so many blue-chip supermarket chains and electrical utilities that share our vision of transforming refrigeration systems into flexible, intelligent energy assets.”
The company claims to have $5 million in orders and it announced today a new $2.5 million round of funding from investors like Element 8 Fund, MIT Angels, and angel investors like Tesla’s CTO, JB Straubel.
Straubel commented on his investment in a press release from the company:
“Energy storage is a key technology that is enabling the ongoing deployment of renewables on the grid. Axiom Exergy has developed a compelling solution that provides unique distributed energy benefits and delivers immediate value to supermarkets and cold storage facilities.”
The $2.5 million will be put toward the installation of “early pilots with major grocery chains in California” and finance the company’s development efforts.