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Energy Storage Startup LightSail Now Backed By Thiel, Gates, Khosla

LightSail energy storage process

Grid-scale clean energy storage startup LightSail has now garnered heavy-hitting venture capital support from the likes of Peter Thiel, Bill Gates, and Khosla Ventures.

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.

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  • Alex

    isn’t compressed air a very inefficient way of storing energy? Everytime you compress a fluid this gets hot. All this heat is then dissipated, so that when you go back to retrieve your energy, you find only a fraction of it. I suppose you should do an isothermal compression, but that would take forever. The faster you “charge” the battery, the less efficient it becomes.

  • http://www.the9billion.com/ John Johnston

    Perhaps their method of using sprayed water helps to cool? And perhaps they are capturing the waste heat energy somehow? Not sure, we’ll have to look deeper into the tech at some stage, thanks.