Bill Gates

LightSail Energy, a Berkeley, California-based company that’s designing systems to store energy generated by wind and solar power, has landed $37.3 million in financing from a group of investors that includes Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, venture capitalist Vinod Khosla and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

The company is led by 25-year-old Chief Scientist Danielle Fong, who began her PhD studies at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, and CEO Steve Crane, a MIT and Caltech physicist whose been involved in a number of startups.

Here’s how the company describes its approach to energy storage, known as isothermal compression: “We inject a fine, dense mist of water spray which rapidly absorbs the heat energy of compression and provides it during expansion.” Competitors include SustainX and General Compression.

The investment comes at a time when clean tech investments are on the ropes, especially following the troubles of companies such as Solyndra and electric car battery maker A123 Systems.

Gates and Khosla have shown a deep interest in energy companies, earlier this year backing MIT electricity storage spinout Liquid Metal Battery Corporation. Gates also is a backer of Bellevue nuclear reactor startup TerraPower.

Speaking at at The Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara, California earlier this year, Gates noted that “cheap energy is like a fantastic vaccine.”

Previously on GeekWire: Bill Gates touts nuclear energy, says coal kills more people…Jeff Bezos goes nuclear, backs B.C. startup’s plan to create safe nuclear power

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