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Q&A: The breakthrough energy tech that could replace batteries forever

Manas Pathak's insights offer a glimpse into the future of energy storage and the innovations that companies like Earthen are bringing to the table. Photo via earthen.energy

In the rapidly evolving world of energy technology, few innovations hold as much promise as the solutions being developed by Earthen.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Manas Pathak, the CEO and co-founder of Earthen, to delve into the company's groundbreaking thermo-mechanical energy storage system. In this Q&A, we explore the core of Earthen's technology, its potential impact on the energy sector, and what the future holds.

Manas Pathak's insights offer a glimpse into the future of energy storage and the innovations that companies like Earthen are bringing to the table. As the energy sector continues to evolve, solutions like these will play a pivotal role in shaping a sustainable future.

Energy Tech Startups: Can you explain the unique approach Earthen takes with its thermo-mechanical energy storage using supercritical CO2?

ManasPathak: Certainly. At Earthen, we've developed a thermo-mechanical energy storage solution that leverages supercritical CO2. This phase of CO2, achieved at high pressures and temperatures, behaves both as a liquid and a gas. It's central to our technology, offering a compact, safe, and cost-effective solution for long-duration energy storage. Think of it as a modern take on compressed air storage but using CO2 for superior results.

Q: With so many energy storage solutions emerging, what sets Earthen's system apart in terms of efficiency?

MP: Our system boasts a competitive round-trip efficiency of 78%, which is quite remarkable. To put it in perspective, this efficiency rivals that of lithium-ion batteries. The use of supercritical CO2 is central to achieving this efficiency, allowing us to harness its unique properties for optimal energy storage and retrieval.

Q: How does Earthen's technology integrate with existing infrastructure, like pipelines?

MP: One of the exciting applications of our technology is its ability to retrofit pipelines, converting them into energy storage assets. This means that existing infrastructure, like pipelines initially designed for other purposes, can be repurposed and utilized for energy storage, maximizing the use of resources and reducing the need for new constructions.

Q: What are Earthen's plans for the future, especially in terms of product launches and market presence?

MP: We're quite ambitious about our roadmap. We aim to launch our first commercial product by 2026-2027. As for our market strategy, we're targeting a diverse range of customer segments, from utility-scale energy storage to commercial-industrial spaces. Our mission is to democratize access to clean energy on a global scale, and we're taking concrete steps to realize that vision.

Q: Lastly, what inspired the creation of Earthen and its focus on equitable energy distribution?

MP: Growing up in India, I witnessed firsthand the disparities in energy consumption. The smallest homes often faced the longest power outages. This early realization highlighted the need for equitable energy distribution. At Earthen, our end goal is to see clean electrons reaching every corner of the globe, ensuring that everyone has access to reliable and sustainable energy.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click here to listen to the full episode.

Hosted by Jason Ethier and Nada Ahmed, the Digital Wildcatters’ podcast, Energy Tech Startups, delves into Houston's pivotal role in the energy transition, spotlighting entrepreneurs and industry leaders shaping a low-carbon future. Digital Wildcatters is a Houston-based media platform and podcast network, which is home to the Energy Tech Startups podcast.

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A View From HETI

Under this partnership, Home Depot customers will be able to buy Sunnova’s Adaptive Home products, which includes solar power, battery storage, and smart energy management. Photo via Sunnova

Houston-based clean energy company Sunnova Energy International has been tapped as the exclusive provider of solar power and battery storage services for the more than 2,000 Home Depot stores in the U.S.

Under this partnership, Home Depot customers will be able to buy Sunnova’s Adaptive Home products. The Adaptive Home line combines solar power, battery storage, and smart energy management.

Sunnova didn’t assign a value to the Home Depot deal.

“Our goal is to make clean, affordable, and reliable energy services more accessible to everyone,” Michael Grasso, executive vice president and chief revenue officer at Sunnova, says in a news release. “As utility rates continue to skyrocket across the country, weather patterns worsen, and remote work becomes more prevalent, the need for resilient, affordable, and dependable power at the home is non-negotiable.”

In 2021, Sunnova rolled out its SunSafe solar and battery storage service at 100 Home Depot stores in hurricane-prone states like Florida, Maryland, and Virginia. A year later, Sunnova made the service available to all Home Depot stores in Puerto Rico.

In 2023, Sunnova expanded the SunSafe offering to 15 Home Depot markets, encompassing about 400 stores.

Publicly traded Sunnova, founded in 2012, had 419,200 customers at the end of last year.

The company recorded revenue of $720.7 million in 2023, up from $557.7 million the previous year. Its net loss in 2023 totaled $502.4 million, up from $130.3 million in 2022.

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