In the ongoing quest to green the grid, the startup LightSail Energy, in conjunction with Peter Thiel, Bill Gates, and Khosla Ventures, has raised $37.3 million dollars to innovate compressed air energy storage technology. LightSail Energy emerged from cloak mode to announce the development of advanced technology that releases compressed air on command, essentially operating like an air-based battery for the electrical grid.

Despite the somewhat archaic technology, compressed air is still valuable because it utilizes energy from a power plant and uses it to run air compressors that then pump air into tanks or underground caverns where the air is stored under pressure. On command, the released air can power a turbine which then generates electricity. Unfortunately, compressed air technology has not had a huge following. Globally, Alabama and Germany are home to two of a miniscule number of compressed air storage projects.

However, interest in compressed air technology has had a resurgence in the past few years, and some startups like Sustain X and General Compression have focused on making this technology more efficient. For instance, LightSail innovated the compression process by using water spray.  SustainX has focused on isothermal compressed air energy storage. For its very first project, General Compression has begun working with partner and investor ConocoPhillips to develop compressed air energy storage projects in Texas.

The US government has taken notice and sees this method of energy storage a potential investment opportunity. The Department of Energy awarded SustainX and power company AEA a $5.39 million grant to begin an air energy storage project that will ultimately lead to compressed air commercialization. Projections for a global market for energy storage may top $31.5 billion dollars by 2017.

[via GigaOM]

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1 COMMENT

  1. I call BULLSHIT on this one.Smells like another GREEN WIDGET SCAM!Of course we are all looking for renewable energy improvements but there is nothing new in this idea.Compressed air storage is inefficient, uneconomic and dangerous.Many companies have sprung up claiming to have solved the problems by using an adiabatic process.Nothing ever eventuates except that the company directors get to drive around in Ferraris for years spending investors and taxpayers money whilst delivering nothing but excuses.Warm water is not a rare commodity!If it was really that simple to generate more energy by the addition of a little hot water then  you’d be on a winner.Why in the world do you need $37M ? You claim it is a low cost system.Why don’t you go ahead and build a few systems and SELL them?(Better mousetrap, beating a path to your door etc.) No, much more fun to be had from a GREEN WIDGET SCAM.Original investors (claim) to be putting in $37M and wait for the dummies to climb on board.Original investors take back their money (with interest) and leave the bag-holders to enjoy the “trough of disappointment”
    Khosla is not an idiot. He just does not just blindly throw cash at every way out Green Widget company. He picks those best suited to the HYPE CYCLE and gets out before the inevitable crash.
     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H…A hype cycle in Gartner’s interpretation comprises five phases:”Technology Trigger” — The first phase of a hype cycle is the “technology trigger” or breakthrough, product launch or other event that generates significant press and interest.”Peak of Inflated Expectations” — In the next phase, a frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations. There may be some successful applications of a technology, but there are typically more failures.”Trough of Disillusionment” — Technologies enter the “trough of disillusionment” because they fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable. Consequently, the press usually abandons the topic and the technology.”Slope of Enlightenment” — Although the press may have stopped covering the technology, some businesses continue through the “slope of enlightenment” and experiment to understand the benefits and practical application of the technology.”Plateau of Productivity” — A technology reaches the “plateau of productivity” as the benefits of it become widely demonstrated and accepted. The technology becomes increasingly stable and evolves in second and third generations. The final height of the plateau varies according to whether the technology is broadly applicable or benefits only a niche market. Of course in the case of GREEN SCAMS – there is never any plateau……just a trough….with directors snouts deeply in it! (Hat, knife and fork on standby)

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