The renewable energy storage project, Malta, which started in Alphabet’s experimental X lab, is now on its own and now called Malta Inc. Launched in 2017 as Project Malta, the venture aims to revolutionize energy storage facilities using a novel grid-scale architecture which generates energy from a mixture of molten salt and antifreeze.
Google’s parent company, Alphabet recognized the move, which it announced last week, as a milestone towards commercialization. While the new company continues to establish ways of deploying its technology in future products by engaging with experts in the power industries, Malta will in the coming months build a megawatt-scale pilot plant.
Malta Inc has designed an electro-thermal storage system that can reserve power generated from fossil fuels or renewable energy far longer than lithium-ion batteries. The system first stores energy generated from fossil, solar or wind generators on the grid by using the electrical energy to drive a heat pump. The process converts the energy into thermal energy or heat which is stored in molten salt, while the antifreeze liquid stores the cold. When the grid needs electricity, the heat is converted back to electricity using a heat engine.
The electro-thermal storage system can store electricity for as long as weeks, Malta says.
The company has in April received a key patent for the energy storage technology, according to Stanford physicist and Nobel Prize winner Robert Laughlin, who designed the system and in May revealed the project details during a talk at Stanford.
Earlier this year, MIT technology review reported that Alphabet was in talks with Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) to spin out its molten-salt storage project Malta. The $1 billion fund led the renewable energy storage facility startup’s $26 million Series A. Investors led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures include Jeff Bezos, John Doerr, Michael Bloomberg, Ray Dalio, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, and Alibaba’s Jack Ma. Other investors include industrial company Alfa Laval of Sweden and solar and wind power developer Concord New Energy Group of Hong Kong.
Malta investors share the same vision with the company to promote the expansion of renewable energy by creating a “scalable storage solution,” said Ramya Swaminathan, Malta CEO. They are “truly partnering with us” in building a product of its first kind aside from the capital investment. “We appreciate their confidence in our strategy and in our team’s ability to execute on it.”
Malta’s goal is to produce the cheapest large-scale energy storage facilities better than lithium-ion batteries. Alphabet’s moonshot factory has produced a series of projects aside Project Malta, which is currently its latest. Alphabet’s X lab recently graduated two startups: balloon network, Loon that beams internet services to remote areas and drone delivery service Project Wing which is designed to improve access to goods. Waymo, a robotaxi company, which launched its commercial service in Arizona; Dandelion, geothermal energy division; life sciences startup Verily; and Chronicle cybersecurity Intelligence Company all graduated from Alphabet’s moonshot factory.