Sustainable Energy

A lot of hot air? Why energy storage matters

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Why energy storage matters
Why energy storage matters

People around the world are turning to renewable sources of energy such as the wind and sun, which offer a sustainable and abundant source of power for our homes, cities and offices. But what do you do when the sun isn't shining or the winds aren't fair?

One way is turn to energy storage whereby energy is stored in compressed air, ready to be released through a turbine and fed back to the grid when required.

However, compression produces a large amount of heat energy that is currently not used in the process. According to the Berkeley, California-based LightSail Energy, "Until now, this was wasted, drastically reducing efficiency."

LightSail Energy is using technology to try and transform energy storage, manufacturing "an elegant method of capturing… heat energy and regenerating useful energy from it."

Like other storage systems, LightSail Energy's stores energy in compressed air, creating heat energy as a by-product. But the company takes this further by adding a fine spray, or mist, of water to capture and absorb the heat energy created during the air compression process.

Hrvoje Polan | AFP | Getty Images

The compressed air is stored in a tank, while the heat energy is also stored for later use. The system is described by LightSail Energy as being 'fully reversible', enabling it to deliver energy when required.

Danielle Fong is co-founder and chief scientist at LightSail Energy. "This project excites me because we're on the cusp of something great," she told CNBC's Sustainable Energy.

"Eventually, we can scale this to a residential scale system that can provide all your energy needs. Energy storage, back-up, and also heat and cooling," Fong added.

It's early days, but Fong's company has big ambitions, and eventually predicts a brighter, cleaner and cheaper future for the energy industry and consumers.

The company claims on its website that its second-generation product, "will be the first energy storage system to out-compete gas peaker plants. It will drive massive adoption of green energy worldwide."