by Winter Wilson | September 13, 2023
Karthi Chakravarty went into college wanting to be a neurosurgeon and came out an
entrepreneur in the climate technology space. While that might have seemed like a big shift to some, for Karthi, it seemed like a natural pivot in his career path.
“My friends call me a fixer – I just have to solve problems,” he said. “So I said alright, energy is the biggest problem there is so let’s learn about it. Energy, I’d have to argue, is the invisible hand of the world.”
His junior year of undergrad, Karthi was building his first energy venture with a team of
engineers. His senior year, he met his now-co-founders, Manas Pathak and Palash Panja, through Arizona State University's Luminosity Lab, and jumped on board as Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of EarthEn. EarthEn recently announced that they were awarded “first-of-its-kind funding by the Office of Electricity, U.S. Department of Energy along with the U.S. National Lab support” to “advance the commercialization of its long-duration energy storage solution utilizing supercritical carbon dioxide technology.”
“What we’ve done is we’ve created a CO2-based thermal mechanical energy storage solution,” said Karthi “We are using heat and compressed CO2 and we use that to run turbomachinery to generate electricity.”
Current storage systems, said Karthi, are very expensive, difficult to scale and rely on supply chain constrained materials. Not to mention create concern around thermal runaway risk increasing the likelihood of a battery explosion, he said.
“Our systems are way cheaper than anything else on the market and also scale better because we are not using any supply chain constrained materials or toxic chemicals,” said Karthi. “And our systems are shipped on the back of a flatbed truck – they don’t need to be built on sites.”
EarthEn’s systems also carry no explosion risk due to their use of CO2, and don’t suffer from heat recycling-based degradation meaning their systems last double to triple the lifetime value of anything else on the market at a tenth of the cost, said Karthi.
Karthi said he also believes EarthEn plays a critical role in conversations surrounding grid resiliency. Their systems, since they are rotating turbomachinery, benefit from rotational inertia, said Karthi. Meaning that when the grid fails, EarthEn’s systems would keep generating electricity for a couple minutes, which can often be exactly the amount of time utilities need to redirect the flow of electricity and prevent a disaster.
If those were not enough reasons to appreciate EarthEn’s innovation, Karthi believes that the reason their technology has been getting so much traction is due to their ability to provide flexibility in storage capacity.
“If our customer comes to us and they say ‘hey I want four hours of storage’ we can give them a configuration that meets that,” said Karthi. “Say next year they come back and say ‘I want ten hours of storage’? It’s literally selling them additional blocks. Think of it like a lego unit and it’s just adding more blocks to an existing system.”
EarthEn is one of seven companies participating in Joules Accelerator’s 90-day accelerator program. Karthi sees it as an opportunity to have open and honest conversations with utilities and potential customers. In a boardroom, he said, a startup is typically judged immediately. But with Joules backing and supporting these conversations, stakeholders come to the table ready to help their team grow.
As the company moves through the program, Karthi looks forward to raising their seed round and getting their first pilot off the ground.
“If there’s any way you can help EarthEn, I’m all ears,” he said.
You can learn more or reach out to EarthEn by visiting their website at