LightSail Energy Raises $37 Million

Posted Nov 6, 2012

LightSail Energy is a clean-tech startup company that works on storing energy that is generated from wind and the sun.  LightSail Energy has raised $37 million from investors that include Bill Gates and Peter Thiel.  LightSail was founded by 25-year-old Princeton University drop-out Danielle Fong.  Ms. Fong said that it took around one year to raise the Series D round of funding since many investors are skeptical of clean technology ever since Solyndra’s IPO failed in 2011.  Essentially Solyndra burned through almost $1 billion from private investors and over $500 million from the Department of Energy before they declared bankruptcy.

Danielle Fong

?The overall problem of how to store large amounts of energy is one we?ve been working on for a century without a lot of success,? stated LightSail co-founder and CEO Steve Crane. ?We?re good at cell phone and laptop batteries and maybe scaling to run cars, but that?s as far as we?ve gone successfully up to now.?

Ms. Fong was doing her PhD at the age of 17 at Princeton.  She started to think about how water and compressed air could be combined to help solve the energy storage problem.

After spraying water droplets into the air, it can be compressed using a technique known as isothermal compression.  The droplets absorb a lot of the heat.  Water is separated from the air and recycled.

LightSail took over an old firehouse based in Oakland, California and installed pipes.  They built a prototype of a reversible system that stores and releases energy by compressing and expanding air there.  This technology impressed Bill Gates, who is a limited partner in Khosla Ventures.

Mr. Thiel said ?it?s time to find honest companies that can develop technologies that stand on real innovation instead of the backs of taxpayers.?

LightSail has raised $52.3 million in total funding.  Another investor in this round includes Innovacorp.  Other individual investors are not known.

[Wall Street Journal]