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SoftBank Group Corp. Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son. Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Late Wednesday brought word that investment giant SoftBank Vision Fund was pouring $110 million into Energy Vault, a startup with new technology for long-duration energy storage.

Why it matters: It's the first investment by the Vision Fund in the energy storage space. (It has staked Uber, Slack and other well-known companies.)

  • And it's notable for what it's not — money for a battery technology company.
  • Instead, it's for a firm with a new tech (using old concepts) that will need lots of capital to scale and compete with other emerging techniques.

The big picture: Per Quartz's Akshat Rathi, "[I]t’s an unusually large sum for a company that hasn’t even existed for two years or built a full-scale prototype."

  • He also notes that SoftBank's interest in energy storage is "signaling to the wider market that this area of technology is ripe for large investments."
  • Andreas Hansson, a partner with SoftBank Investment Advisers, is joining Energy Vault's board.

How it works: The Swiss startup has developed a new method for long-duration storage — something that's important for enabling very high levels of intermittent renewables on power grids.

  • It's conceptually similar to pumped-hydro storage, but instead involves 35-ton composite bricks stacked into a large tower controlled via software by a crane system.
  • "Bricks are then returned to the ground and the kinetic energy generated from the falling brick is turned back into electricity," their website notes. Check out a company-produced simulation here.
  • The company says it can provide storage at lower cost than hydro-based systems and without the need for specific topographies.

What they're saying: “If you look at a lot of the estimates in the world for what energy storage investment is going to look like over the next 10-20-30 years, the numbers are anywhere from $300 billion to $600 billion,” Energy Vault CEO Robert Piconi tells CNBC.

  • “Everyone understands the need to get storage to make renewables much more efficient and to reduce our [reliance] on fossil fuels,” he said.

What's next: Tests of whether and how fast the company can move beyond the small prototype phase. Quartz reports the investment will help build full-scale prototypes in Italy and India and then 35 MWh-capacity multiple towers for customers "soon after."

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Biden reviews U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official told Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Trump supporter found with pipe bombs accused of plot to attack Democrats

Five improvised explosive devices that the FBI says "were fully operational and could cause great bodily harm or injury if handled improperly." Photo: FBI/Justice Department

The FBI believes California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the Bay Area headquarters of Twitter and Facebook were targets of a man facing federal explosives charges, according to a criminal complaint.

Driving the news: Prosecutors charged Ian Benjamin Rogers after finding weapons including five pipe bombs, 49 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition following a Jan. 15 search of his Napa County home and auto repair business. His alleged goal was to ensure former President Trump remained in office.

7 hours ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."

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