Skip to Content

LightSail Energy Snags $37M in Funding

Peter Thiel leads investment round for compressed-air energy storage startup
November 5, 2012

LightSail Energy, a startup that is building a compressed-air energy storage system, just got a big cash infusion. The Berkeley-based company said Monday that it has raised $37.3 million in funding. The series “D” invement round was led by PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel and included the leader of LightSail’s last investment round, Khosla Ventures, as well as Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

LightSail was founded by Danielle Fong (see “Innovators Under 35: Danielle Fong, 24”), who hopes to make it more practical and economical to use clean energy by using tanks of compressed air to store it. While the general idea of storing electricity generated by solar panels or wind turbines as compressed air in a big tank isn’t a new one, it has historically been quite inefficient because the temperature of air can rise to nearly 1,000 °C as it’s being compressed. LightSail takes a different approach by spraying water into the air as it is being compressed to help manage the temperature change.

LightSail’s process works like this: Electricity from a wind turbine drives a motor that powers an air compressor. Water is sprayed into the air during the compression process to absorb heat. The mix of water and air is then ejected from the compressor chamber and sent through an air and water separator, yielding relatively dry air and liquid water, which are stored in large tanks. To harness the energy that has been stored this way, you just run the process in reverse.

The cash will undoubtedly help LightSail move forward: it’s working to ship pilot units of its storage system late next year or the year after.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Russian servicemen take part in a military drills
Russian servicemen take part in a military drills

How a Russian cyberwar in Ukraine could ripple out globally

Soldiers and tanks may care about national borders. Cyber doesn't.

Death and Jeff Bezos
Death and Jeff Bezos

Meet Altos Labs, Silicon Valley’s latest wild bet on living forever

Funders of a deep-pocketed new "rejuvenation" startup are said to include Jeff Bezos and Yuri Milner.

conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned
conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned

A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click

Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.

ai learning to multitask concept
ai learning to multitask concept

Meta’s new learning algorithm can teach AI to multi-task

The single technique for teaching neural networks multiple skills is a step towards general-purpose AI.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.