Danielle Fong

Changing the World

Dartmouth-born Danielle Fong started showing remarkable skills at fifteen months. By age three she could do some square roots. The regular school system proved to be not for her, so Danielle was mostly home-schooled until she went to Dalhousie University at age 12. Being precocious, however, is not why Danielle Fong is featured here. The reason is because as a young adult this Nova Scotian came up with a sustainable energy idea that has the potential to change the entire world.

After completing a degree at Dalhousie, Danielle went off to Princeton University to study plasma physics. She was 17. Her initial interest was in exploring the idea of producing sustainable energy from nuclear fusion. However, she came to believe "that fusion, if anything, is the power source of the far future, and it is the near future I worry about." She left Princeton in 2007 and headed to Silicon Valley in California, where ideas, energy and start-up companies were everywhere.

In 2008, Danielle found her niche: an innovative idea to create what is known as Regenerative Air Energy Storage (RAES). RAES calls for a method that uses the heat energy created by compressing air, whose heat is captured with water spray and stored for later use. To take that idea and see if it could have practical applications, Danielle combined with two others to found LightSail Energy. The company's aim is to produce the world’s cleanest and most economical energy storage systems. Since then, Danielle has won many honours and awards and her company has sought and obtained major funding (including from Bill Gates), worked out technical details and developed prototypes. Presently, LightSail's RAES technology is being tested in a major way here in Nova Scotia. The former Bowater Mersey Paper Mill in Liverpool is being re-purposed as part of the project. When completed, Nova Scotia will have the world's first combined wind energy and RAES system.  Danielle Fong's vision is that going forward, the technology she conceived may well be "powering electrical grids across the world."