California-based LightSail has received a sizeable $37.3 million for further development of the company. This latest series D round of funding was led by Peter Thiel; Bill Gates and Khosla Ventures are existing investors in the company.
LightSail has created a kind of air-based, grid-scale battery by using a technology that compresses air in a tank and then releases it when needed. The company has developed an efficient version of a technology that has been around for years.
There are a few compressed air energy projects in various places around the world, which take excess energy from a power plant or from renewable energy and use it to operate air compressors. These pump air into tanks or underground chambers where it can be stored under pressure. When the stored energy is needed, the air can be released to power an electricity-creating turbine. LightSail uses water spray in the air compression process.
The startup is aiming to make renewable energy practical and mainstream for the first time, well known cleantech investor Vinod Khosla said in a release. Peter Thiel (first investor in Facebook and a founder of PayPal) has added, “LightSail is run by engineers, not salespeople, and it promises to be one of the first true alternative energy storage companies”.
With renewable energy generation gathering pace around the world, solutions for storing and releasing large amounts of energy in various places is becoming vitally important. It has been estimated that the energy storage market could reach up to $31.5 billion by 2017.