As the US moves to curb its reliance on fossil fuels and stabilize the nation’s power grid, renewable energy sources such as sun and wind present an inherent challenge: They are intermittent.
“When the sun’s not shining you’re not generating any power, or when the wind is not blowing you’re not generating any power,” said Ken Rubin, cofounder of Agilitas Energy.
To combat that problem, Wakefield-based Agilitas is one of a number of companies nationwide that are building renewable storage systems to essentially collect and hold clean energy until it’s needed. The systems— which use shipping containers filled with batteries — are intended to make solar and wind energy more reliable.
As demand for these systems grows, eight-year-old Agilitas is expanding, thanks to a $350 million investment announced Wednesday, which will allow it to acquire the rights to more renewable energy storage projects. It’s the first outside investment for the company, and if certain goals are met, the funding could grow to $600 million, according to Agilitas.
Rubin said the company has grown to become the largest developer, owner, and operator of so-called distributed energy storage and solar systems in the Northeast, with about 15 projects, including several in Massachusetts. With the investment, the company plans to add more than 500 megawatts of renewable energy, which will translate to about 50 to 75 operational projects.
“It’s the catapult to get us into the national arena,” Rubin said.
As part of the deal, Agilitas and Minneapolis-based investor CarVal, will establish a joint venture to own and operate storage systems. CarVal will assume a minority stake in Agilitas.
Whereas other companies tend to focus on one aspect of energy storage systems, Agilitas works on developing, building, financing, and operating them. CarVal was attracted to its expertise “across the entire lifecycle,” Rubin said.
“They see us as a one-stop-shop, platform investment,” he said.
Rubin was working at Iron Mountain, the Boston-based records-management giant, when he met Barrett Bilotta, who was then a recent college graduate running an archiving software company. Impressed with Bilotta and “feeling “stuck on the corporate treadmill,” the two men started an investment firm called Madbury Capital, which was originally focused on real estate development.
While they were developing a property in Durham, N.H., town officials there inquired about solar panels. Rubin said he and Bilotta “reached the conclusion that not only were we interested in that project, but we were interested in the whole solar opportunity.”
Madbury established Agilitas Energy as a subsidiary in 2014 and quickly built a portfolio of more than a dozen solar projects. Agilitas then sold its solar assets to CarVal for more than $30 million in 2020 as part of a move to renewable energy storage systems.
With the investment, Rubin said, Agilitas will add roughly a dozen people to its current workforce of about 20.