Can You Store Wind Energy? Danielle Fong Finds a Way

By Shlomo Maital   

  wind turbine

One of the biggest as-yet unsolved problems in generating sustainable energy is that of storage – how do you store solar or wind power, for use when there is no sun (night time) or wind (calm periods)?  This is vital, so wind turbines, for instance, can provide 100% all-the-time reliable power.   A young creative Canadian entrepreneur named Danielle Fong may have cracked the problem. Her story is told in the excellent Atlantic Monthly department, “Eureka Moments”, by Stephanie Porter.

   Danielle studied at Canadia’s Dalhousie University, in New Brunswick, graduating with honours in Physics and Computer Science at the age of 17, then beginning a doctoral program that year at Princeton University’s Plasma Physics lab. She left in 2007 to found LightSail in California in 2008, and was named Forbes Magazine’s Energy Standout (Under age 30) for her work.

   LightSail’s technology achieves 90 per cent ‘round trip’ efficiency (storing and then providing the stored power), which is extremely high, almost unheard of. Her method uses compressed air, with a dense water spray used to capture the heat created when air is compressed, then store it for later use. Danielle’s father, Greg Fong, is direct of LightSail’s business development. He notes that the technology could offer remote communities and factories, far from the electricity grid, a way to generate stable electricity from stable sources. This could be of great importance for China, for instance.

   Over 30 wind farms are already in use or in development in Nova Scotia. Billions are being invested too in tidal energy. But the way to store all this energy does not yet exists. Young Danielle may have the answer. Her idea is a huge “wow” and shows why great entrepreneurs with game-changing ideas always tackle the biggest problems around.