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LightSail gets $37.3 million for compressed air energy storage systems

Berkeley, California-based startup LightSail Energy – which developed an energy storage system using compressed air – raised $37.3 million in Series D funding.

The recently closed funding round was led by San Francisco investor Peter Thiel. Khosla Ventures, who incubated the company, Bill Gates, Innovacorp and several other investors also participated.

“This investment round will enable LightSail to bring its first grid-scale energy storage products to market,” said Steve Crane, cofounder and chief executive of LightSail.

Founded in 2009, LightSail Energy applies thermodynamics – the science of heat transfer and utilization – to store energy. By compressing air, their energy storage system captures heat energy and releases it when needed.

During air compression, mechanical energy is converted into heat. A fine, dense mist of water spray absorbs and stores this heat. The compressed air is then stored in a tank, and when energy is needed the process is reversed. The water is sprayed into the expanding air which absorbs the heat energy in the water and converts it back to mechanical energy.

LightSail believes their technology can help solve some of the problems that has limited the penetration of renewable energy generation by ensuring that power can be made available when it’s needed and not just when it’s available.

By helping to manage the increasing demand for peak power, the entire grid can be made more reliable and more practical, allowing for more renewables to make up the power mix.

“We want to democratize energy – to enable renewable sources to supply energy on demand locally and at a lower cost than centralized fossil-fuel based generation,” Mr. Crane said. – EcoSeed Staff

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