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Province likely to lose $2M in failed energy-storage project

The province will likely lose about $2 million it invested in an energy-storage project that had ties to Nova Scotia but ultimately never came to fruition.

Through Innovacorp, the province put the money into LightSail Energy with the intention the company would use three wind turbines in Queens County to test its energy-storage technology, as well as employ 10 people full time.

LightSail Energy is based in Berkeley, Calif., but the company’s co-founder and chief scientist is Danielle Fong, who is originally from Nova Scotia. She attended Dalhousie University at age 12.

Plans for the Nova Scotia test site were announced in July 2014 and it was expected to be up and running in two years. That never happened, however, and the company laid off its staff late last year, according to Charley Baxter, Innovacorp’s vice-president of investments.

Why the province invested in LightSail

Baxter said Innovacorp invested in LightSail because of Fong’s connection to Nova Scotia, the plan to set up a test site in Nova Scotia and the hope the investment would open doors to potential investors for Nova Scotia’s clean-tech sector.

“We were looking to form relationships with leading investors in the sector for investments in our fund for possible downstream investments,” said Baxter.

The company’s technology aimed to store surplus wind energy. The method was to involve using the heat energy created by compressed air. The idea was to capture that heat with a water spray and store it for later use.

LightSail’s investors included Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Baxter said the provincial money didn’t create connections that resulted in investments in Nova Scotia’s clean-tech sector.

“Unfortunately, that did not materialize,” he said.

Baxter said while there’s hope the company will reboot, it’s unlikely.