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LightSail Shifts from Compressed Air Car to Grid Storage

April 14, 2011

Power plants don’t move.

That likely is one of the reasons stealthy startup LightSail Energy has shifted from trying to build a car that runs on compressed air to building a machine for energy storage.

The Oakland, Calif.-based company, backed by Khosla Ventures, has joined the ever-expanding race to develop inexpensive, reliable and ideally easy-to-deploy systems for storing energy at strategic spots on the grid or at wind and solar farms.

Like SustainX out of Dartmouth College, LightSail’s goal is to develop a mechanical unit that stores energy as compressed air, probably in above-ground tanks. Air compressors can accomplish this task today. Unfortunately, the energy required to compress the air and keep it sealed with conventional technologies outweighs the benefits.