23 May 2023

Soltec makes its first investment through Aurora in the energy storage startup Silbat

  • With this investment, Soltec aims to explore long-duration energy storage technology and address the issue of intermittency in renewable energies
  • Soltec’s stake in the company is 12.2%
  • Aurora, established in 2021, seeks to invest in innovative and synergistic entrepreneurial projects related to Soltec’s activities

Soltec, a company specialized in vertically integrated photovoltaic solutions, has entered the capital of Silbat through its corporate accelerator Aurora. This marks the first acquisition by this emerging projects launcher. With this move, the Murcia-based firm’s stake in the startup founded in 2019 amounts to 12.19%.

With this investment, Soltec aims to explore a long-term energy storage technology that could address the issue of intermittency in renewable energies and its undesirable effects, such as significant imbalances in the hourly price curve and grid stability, among others. Additionally, Soltec seeks to facilitate the adoption of this technology primarily in its own plants.

According to Raúl Morales, CEO of Soltec, “The development of energy storage, along with the electrification of our economy, is urgent and necessary. The system and the industry need to provide stability to production and price curves, so any innovations that contribute to further advancements in the energy transition are necessary, and it is important to support them. At Soltec, we have always been at the forefront of new solutions that strengthen the industry and achieve total decarbonization of the economy.”

“Advanced economies are engaged in a fast-paced race towards energy transition, and innovative solutions are needed to facilitate the large-scale deployment of renewable energy plants. This first investment by Aurora in thermophotovoltaic technology aligns with this objective. Once fully developed, it will enable the storage of electricity generated from solar energy when there is insufficient demand and its subsequent utilization when electricity consumption increases or when requested by grid operators,” stated Iván Soto, Head of Aurora.

Silbat is a spin-off founded and led by Ignacio Luque, who serves as its CEO and has a long entrepreneurial background in the photovoltaic industry, and Antonio Luque, an emeritus professor of Physical Electronics and honorary president of the Institute of Solar Energy at the Technical University of Madrid. The company is developing a new technology for electrical storage based on the latent heat of fusion of molten silicon and its extraction through thermophotovoltaic cells.

A disruptive technology

Silbat’s technological proposal is based on storing electricity from renewable sources in the form of latent heat and recovering it through thermophotovoltaic cells. Currently in the testing phase in a controlled environment, this battery, with a duration of up to 100 hours per cycle, provides a solution to both the intermittency issue of renewable energies and the problem of excess supply at certain times of the day. It allows for the immediate dispatch of stored electricity and prevents its waste during periods of high electricity generation, enabling its use during periods of higher demand.

Silbat utilizes silicon as the material to convert electricity into heat. Unlike lithium and other metals used in current batteries, silicon is abundant and cost-effective. In fact, this is one of the key factors that make this solution highly competitive once it is industrialized, with investment costs of less than 10 EUR/kWh and a levelized cost of released energy of around 0.05€/kWh.

Other advantages of this technology include the high energy density of silicon itself, as it is the second chemical element with the highest latent heat of fusion. The battery also has a long lifespan of up to 30 years, and the solution is modular and scalable, installed in containers.

Aurora’s commitment

Established in 2021, Aurora is Soltec’s corporate accelerator. Its objective is to promote innovative projects that combat climate change while ensuring the long-term competitiveness of the company through renewable energies. It serves as a tool to drive innovation by identifying, selecting, and fostering commercial agreements and investments with companies that have pre-commercial solutions or disruptive startups developing technologies in the validation phase in controlled environments.

Aurora also manages the IDEA intra-entrepreneurship program, which aims to stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit among Soltec employees. To date, nearly 50 employees have participated in the two editions of the IDEA program, and EnviroScale (www.enviroscale.com), a spin-off dedicated to measuring the origin and sustainability of energy using blockchain technology, has been established.