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| August 23, 2019

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Energy Vault raises $110 million from SoftBank Vision Fund as energy storage grabs headlines

August 15, 2019 |

Imagine a moving tower made of huge cement bricks weighing 35 metric tons. The movement of these massive blocks is powered by wind or solar power plants and is a way to store the energy those plants generate. Software controls the movement of the blocks automatically, responding to changes in power availability across an electric grid to charge and discharge the power that’s being generated.

The development of this technology is the culmination of years of work at Idealab, the Pasadena, Calif.-based startup incubator, and Energy Vault, the company it spun out to commercialize the technology, has just raised $ 110 million from SoftBank Vision Fund to take its next steps in the world.

Energy storage remains one of the largest obstacles to the large-scale rollout of renewable energy technologies on utility grids, but utilities, development agencies and private companies are investing billions to bring new energy storage capabilities to market as the technology to store energy improves.

The investment in Energy Vault is just one indicator of the massive market that investors see coming as power companies spend billions on renewables and storage. As The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend, ScottishPower, the U.K.-based utility, is committing to spending $ 7.2 billion on renewable energy, grid upgrades and storage technologies between 2018 and 2022.

Meanwhile, out in the wilds of Utah, the American subsidiary of Japan’s Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems is working on a joint venture that would create the world’s largest clean energy storage facility. That 1 gigawatt storage would go a long way toward providing renewable power to the Western U.S. power grid and is going to be based on compressed air energy storage, large flow batteries, solid oxide fuel cells and renewable hydrogen storage.

“For 20 years, we’ve been reducing carbon emissions of the U.S. power grid using natural gas in combination with renewable power to replace retiring coal-fired power generation. In California and other states in the western United States, which will soon have retired all of their coal-fired power generation, we need the next step in decarbonization. Mixing natural gas and storage, and eventually using 100% renewable storage, is that next step,” said Paul Browning, president and CEO of MHPS Americas.

Energy Vault’s technology could also be used in these kinds of remote locations, according to chief executive Robert Piconi.

Energy Vault’s storage technology certainly isn’t going to be ubiquitous in highly populated areas, but the company’s towers of blocks can work well in remote locations and have a lower cost than chemical storage options, Piconi said.

“What you’re seeing there on some of the battery side is the need in the market for a mobile solution that isn’t tied to topography,” Piconi said. “We obviously aren’t putting these systems in urban areas or the middle of cities.”

For areas that need larger-scale storage that’s a bit more flexible there are storage solutions like Tesla’s new Megapack.

The Megapack comes fully assembled — including battery modules, bi-directional inverters, a thermal management system, an AC breaker and controls — and can store up to 3 megawatt-hours of energy with a 1.5 megawatt inverter capacity.

The Energy Vault storage system is made for much, much larger storage capacity. Each tower can store between 20 and 80 megawatt hours at a cost of 6 cents per kilowatt hour (on a levelized cost basis), according to Piconi.

The first facility that Energy Vault is developing is a 35 megawatt-hour system in Northern Italy, and there are other undisclosed contracts with an undisclosed number of customers on four continents, according to the company.

One place where Piconi sees particular applicability for Energy Vault’s technology is around desalination plants in places like sub-Saharan Africa or desert areas.

Backing Energy Vault’s new storage technology are a clutch of investors, including Neotribe Ventures, Cemex Ventures, Idealab and SoftBank.


Angels star Mike Trout snags Newport Beach mansion for $9.15 million

August 14, 2019 |

Angels slugger Mike Trout has shelled out $ 9.15 million for a 9,000-square-foot, three-story mansion in Newport Beach.

L.A. Times – Business


1 million jobs are at risk in India auto sales slump

August 14, 2019 |

Just two years ago, India’s huge car market was booming and global players were rushing to invest. Now it’s been slammed into reverse. – RSS Channel – World

A.Capital Partners, founded by Ronny Conway, targets $140 million for its third fund

August 9, 2019 |

Silicon Valley investor Ronny Conway is raising his third early-stage venture fund, shows a new SEC filing that states the fund’s target is $ 140 million and that the first sale has yet to occur.

The now six-year-old firm, A.Capital, focuses on both consumer and enterprise tech, and has offices in Menlo Park and San Francisco.

Among the many brand-name companies in its portfolio are Coinbase, Airbnb, Pinterest, and Reddit. (You can find its other investments here.)

Conway led the seed-stage program of Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) for roughly four years in its earliest days and left in 2013 to raise his debut fund, which closed with $ 51 million in capital commitments. He also raised two, smaller parallel funds at the time.

According to SEC filings, he sought out $ 140 million for his second fund, though he never announced its close.

A.Capital is today run by Conway, along with General Partner Ramu Arunachalam (also formerly of a16z) and Kartik Talwar, who worked previously with Conway’s brother, Topher, and his famed father, Ron, at their separate venture firm, SV Angel.

Conway maintains a far lower profile than his father in particular, who throughout his venture career has nurtured relationships not only with founders but with tech reporters and local politicians.

Though now ancient history in Silicon Valley years, Ronny Conway was credited with introducing Andreessen Horowitz to Instagram during its earliest days.

Conway, a former Googler, met Instagram cofounder Kevin System in the several years when he, too, worked for the search giant, beginning in 2006. It turned out to be a highly worthwhile introduction, though it could have been even lucrative for a16z.

Though the firm made a seed-stage bet on the what was then a far simpler mobile photo-sharing app, a16z never followed up with another check because of investment in another photo-sharing startup that would eventually flounder (PicPlz).

It was a sensitive issue at the time for a16z, with some noting its missed opportunity. In fact, Ben Horowitz later felt compelled to write in a blog post that Andreessen Horowitz made $ 78 million from its $ 250,000 seed investment in Instagram when Facebook acquired it $ 1 billion in 2012.


Josh Hutcherson’s Midcentury treehouse seeks $3.5 million in Hollywood Hills

August 6, 2019 |

In the Hollywood Hills, ‘Hunger Games’ star Josh Hutcherson is asking $ 3.495 million for his Midcentury treehouse of seven years.

L.A. Times – Business


US cities are losing 36 million trees a year. Here’s why it matters

August 5, 2019 |

If you’re looking for a reason to care about tree loss, the nation’s latest heat wave might be it. Trees can lower summer daytime temperatures by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a recent study. – RSS Channel – World

Hitmaker Stephan Moccio sells cool contemporary in Pacific Palisades for $8.5 million

August 2, 2019 |

Songwriter-producer Stephan Moccio of “Wrecking Ball” fame has sold a contemporary-style home in Pacific Palisades for $ 8.5 million.

L.A. Times – Business

Katy Perry and collaborators ordered to pay $2.78 million for copying Christian rap song

August 2, 2019 |

Katy Perry and her collaborators at her record label have to pay $ 2.78 million after a federal jury found the pop star copied one of her hit songs.
FOX News

Bruce Willis unloads Caribbean compound for $27 million

August 2, 2019 |

Actor Bruce Willis has sold his 7.3-acre coastal compound in the Turks and Caicos Islands for $ 27 million, which is $ 6 million less than his asking price.

L.A. Times – Business

Bel-Air gem, once home to Heidi Klum, is on the market for $14.95 million

July 31, 2019 |

In lower Bel-Air, a modern mansion once home to actor Danny Trejo, model Heidi Klum and DJ Chantel Jeffries is for sale with a tag of $ 14.95 million.

L.A. Times – Business