Doral’s Roee Furman: How storage can attract investors

BY BEN COOK

  • Venture capital fund Doral Energy-Tech Ventures seeking new investments
  • Fund recently invested in Battery Resourcers, Yotta Energy and Titan
  • Start-ups ‘combining scientific background and business acumen’ appeal

If you run an energy storage business, have a strong scientific background, business acumen, and a need for an investor, then Roee Furman could be the person you’ve been seeking.

Furman is managing director of Doral Energy-Tech Ventures (DETV), the corporate innovation and venture capital investment arm of renewable energy infrastructure developer Doral

Established in September last year, DETV targets equity investments in energy storage, renewable energy, energy trading, direct carbon capturing, waste-to-energy, green hydrogen and green ammonia businesses. In addition to helping to incubate companies, DETV also has what Furman describes as “strong relationships” with universities and has funded applied research programmes. 

Highlights for DETV during the last 12 months included participating – along with other investors – in a $70 million mid-round funding investment in lithium-ion battery recycling company Battery Resourcers, as well as participating in Yotta Energy’s series A funding round, the proceeds of which will be spent on transforming buildings into distributed solar and storage plants.

Then, last week, it was revealed that DETV was one of the investors in US battery management system provider Titan Advanced Solutions’ $33 million series B financing.

In the first year of the DETV fund, a total of $16 million was allocated, and around 75 per cent of that amount was invested in energy storage-related projects. 

But now DETV is eyeing new potential targets. Energy Storage Report spoke to Furman to find out what he views as the biggest opportunities in energy storage, which markets are the most attractive, and what characteristics he’s looking for in companies when considering a potential investment.

What do you currently see as the biggest opportunities in energy storage?

Roee Furman: There are lots of opportunities in this domain, especially as the technology scales and the prices go down and some governments and corporates announce ambitious transitions to renewable energy. There is a need for energy storage, from residential to commercial/industrial and up to utility scale. We see a boom in the energy storage space.

I would highlight long-duration energy storage as a very interesting area – it could be long-duration storage up to seasonal storage. In order to accomplish a full transition towards renewables, and not to rely on the grid, you need to have some long duration storage capabilities that will serve applications and use cases such as: a few rainy days in which solar will not produce at a high efficiency; events like wildfires, as we saw in California; or severe winter storms such as those that caused the power crisis in Texas.

In order to have a fully independent renewable energy ecosystem, you need to have some long duration storage that will work alongside short duration of, let’s say, up to eight hours per day, one cycle per day. So I think that interesting and cost-effective solutions in long duration storage will play a very significant role. Energy storage systems can also well serve energy trading applications to increase revenues.

We are well aware that lithium-ion is the core battery of choice as of today, but it is also a resource in distress. Some of the alternatives to lithium are also of interest, we are looking into the sodium-ion space, the zinc-air space (that is, Phinergy), as well as producing active cathode materials from battery recycling – for example, Doral’s portfolio company Battery Resourcers. 

Are there any particular markets or regions that are particularly attractive at the moment?

RF: Israel is a very interesting market, it’s out of sight, which is normal because it’s relatively small. In Israel alone, Doral has won two governmental tenders that will give us more than a 40 per cent share of the energy storage development market in Israel so we are going to deploy, across the country, approximately 1.5 GW/h combined with renewable sources. This is a massive energy storage play – the Israeli government has said that renewable projects should have a multiple of four of storage so, for example, 400MW of storage for a 100MW solar project. 

Other markets that are interesting are obviously the US – where Doral has begun construction of the 1.6GWdc Mammoth Solar project in Indiana, which is set to be the US’ largest solar farm once complete – and Australia. 

What are the characteristics you look for in the companies you invest in?

RF: We obviously look at the team, not only team cohesion, but their background, tech expertise and experience. We try to find an interesting dynamic between a solid scientific background and also execution capabilities and hands-on experience – this would be the dream team and, if they have the business acumen, that’s great. 

With regard to new battery chemistry, we will look into the actual performance and when we have some third-party neutral validation, some analysis, testing, that obviously brings us much more comfort. 

It’s difficult to identify which type of battery technology will be the most successful, so we also want to ascertain the extent of the commercial traction. Do they have a joint development agreement in place? What type of business relationships do they have with tier one manufacturers? How vast is their IP coverage? 

We definitely look into [investor] syndicates as well because sometimes we like to invest as part of a syndicate – we’ve done some wonderful investments with TDK Ventures, Orbia Ventures and Jaguar Land Rover, for example.

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