Hundreds of wind turbines are delivering power to Nova Scotia's energy grid these days, but one of the challenges they face is how to store surplus energy for when the wind is not blowing.
A company co-founded by Danielle Fong, a 26-year-old Nova Scotia scientist, is trying to solve that challenge — and it has some big backers in its corner, including Bill Gates.
In the community of Brooklyn in Queens County, a wind developer called Watts Wind Energy has been approved to put up three 10-storey turbines close to the former Bowater Mersey Paper mill.
Fong, who is the co-founder and chief scientist of LightSail Energy, is hoping to use those turbines to test her energy storage technology, which involves storing energy in compressed air.
"It could be the start of something truly great. It's one of the few technologies that are in the running to enable renewables to power the electrical grids across the world," said Fong.
LightSail Energy's method involves using the heat energy created by compressed air. The idea is to capture that heat with a water spray and store it for later use.
"When you compress air it gives off heat. If you pump up your bicycle tire, you'll feel the heat from your pump," said Stan Mason, the president of Watts Wind Energy.
"What she has done is found out a way to capture that heat and store it."
LightSail Energy's technology hasn't been proven yet, but $43 million has been invested in the company. The Nova Scotia government has invested $2 million through Innovacorp and even Bill Gates has invested cash.
Fong grew up in Dartmouth, went to Dalhousie University at age 12 and studied nuclear fusion at Princeton University, before coming back to Nova Scotia for Tuesday's announcement.
It will be another two years before the technology is up and running. The project is expected to create 10 full-time jobs in Brooklyn.
If the project is successful, it could lead to exporting the technology and more solar and wind generation in Nova Scotia.