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SoftBank Vision Fund makes first energy bet

Swiss startup Energy Vault raises $110m to deploy brick storage towers worldwide

Energy Vault plans to demonstrate its brick energy-storage towers in Italy later this year (Photo courtesy of Energy Vault)

TOKYO -- SoftBank Group's near $100 billion Vision Fund made its first bet in the energy sector with a $110 million investment in Switzerland-based startup Energy Vault.

The funding will enable Energy Vault to deploy its huge brick energy-storage towers across the world, the company said on Thursday.

"We looked at who can bring a global network to accelerate our deployment, and SoftBank was an easy choice," said co-founder and CEO Robert Piconi in a phone interview. He declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal.

Earlier investors include the corporate venture capital arm of Mexican cement giant Cemex.

The cost of storing energy is considered a major problem for the renewable energy sector. Founded in 2017, Energy Vault is developing a tower that moves thousands of giant, 35-metric ton bricks to store excess energy.

The company says the system is more affordable and easier to deploy than conventional pumped hydro storage systems.

Energy Vault plans to demonstrate a tower with a 35-megawatt hour storage capacity for the first time during the fourth quarter in Italy, and has agreements with customers in four continents.

SoftBank operates a renewable energy business within and outside Japan. But the deal marks the first time that the Vision Fund -- which mainly invests in disruptive artificial intelligence technology -- is venturing into the energy sector.

Energy Vault said it is developing machine vision software that enables the towers to operate autonomously.

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