Mukilteo-based UniEnergy develops long-lasting massive batteries that store energy in a liquid for use by utilities and industrial companies.
Energy-storage startup UniEnergy Technologies said it has raised $25 million in funding to continue producing a huge, liquid battery meant to help utilities and large industrials companies make energy last longer.
The Mukilteo company said last week the investment comes from Tokyo investment firm Orix and from existing investors. A document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission reveals Orix put $12 million in the series B round, and took a 10 percent stake in the company.
Orix is also known as the owner of the Orix Buffaloes, the Japanese baseball team that former Seattle Mariners star Ichiro played for when it was known as the BlueWave.
UniEnergy creates massive batteries contained in railroad containers. The batteries store energy in a liquid containing the chemical vanadium, a contrast to the more traditional way of storing energy in solid form.
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The liquid form, or flow battery, makes the battery and energy flow last much longer than a traditional battery, said Russ Weed, UniEnergy’s vice president of business development and general counsel.
“Our system doesn’t wear out; it doesn’t degrade,” Weed said.
The liquid form has its benefits but don’t expect to see it in cars or phones anytime soon. It’s simply too heavy.
UniEnergy’s large-scale energy-storage technology was developed by its founders, Z. Gary Yang and Liyu Li, when the pair worked at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The startup developed from the research in 2012 and now has about 50 employees. The workforce could grow to 75 in the next year, mostly in marketing and sales.
Customers of UniEnergy’s storage system include several utilities and industrial companies, such as the Snohomish PUD, Spokane utility Avista and California avocado company Mission Produce.
UniEnergy was named in a recent Seattle Times report that examined the connections between Washington state’s clean-energy grant program and the companies that received funds. Questions have arisen about the appearance of possible insider advantage between UniEnergy, 1Energy Systems and the state Department of Commerce.
UniEnergy denies any improper activity took place. Complaints against Commerce officials are being investigated by the state.
Under Gov. Jay Inslee, the state has put a strong focus on funding and growing the clean-energy industry.
“Attracting major private investment that helps Washington companies grow and prosper with the global clean energy economy is a primary reason why Gov. Inslee and the state Legislature have invested over $76 million in our Clean Energy Fund since 2013,” Brian Young of the Commerce Department said in a statement Monday.