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Japan’s Orix Corporation invests in flow battery start-up UniEnergy Technologies’ expans

Orix Corporation has already become involved in PV markets in Japan and elsewhere. Image: Orix Corporation.
Japanese financial services company Orix Corporation has invested in UniEnergy Technologies (UET), a US company delivering large-scale energy storage based around its own vanadium flow batteries.

UET, which claimed to have deployed North America and Europe’s largest capacity flow battery in June when it installed a 1MW / 4MWh system in Washington, said ORIX was among participants in a US$25 million funding round.

Orix has been an investor and participant in PV markets in Japan and elsewhere, including recent involvement in a US$132 million drive by banks to develop Fukushima Prefecture’s biggest PV plant. Orix also made its first move into the US renewable energy tax credit financing market earlier this year when it joined US Bancorp in a conglomerate to help SolarCity develop up to 2,500 systems for the residential and commercial markets.

UET and Orix did not reveal how much of the US$25 million came from the financial services company. The funding will be used to scale up UET’s production, business development and sales activities in North America and elsewhere, with the company already having executed projects for utilities and other customers in regional markets including California. The two companies said they will partner “closely” in Japan and elsewhere to offer energy storage procurement models in the utility, commercial, industrial and microgrid segments.

UET developed its vanadium redox flow battery when the company’s two founders were researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, supported by the government Department of Energy. Orix said that it acquired preferred voting shares through its investment into UET which gave it 10% voting rights in UET’s parent company.

In a statement this week, Orix hailed advantages of flow batteries including their long duration and expected lifetime, while also championing the specific advantages of UET’s technologies, which Orix said represented a successful reduction in the space required for installation.

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