Danielle Fong and the Search for Clean Energy

On this day, October 30 in the year 1987, one of the youngest pioneers in the search for clean and renewable energy was born in Nova Scotia, Canada. Her name is Danielle Fong, co-founder and chief scientist of LightSail Energy.

Danielle Fong
Danielle Fong (Credit: youtube video)

Danielle Fong was the eldest of three children of inventor and restaurateur Greg Fong. A child prodigy, she could perform square roots at age 3. At age 11, she enrolled in programming classes at Nova Scotia Community College. In 2005 at age 18, she graduated from Dalhousie University with majors in computer science and physics. She proceeded to study at the doctoral program of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) with full scholarship. She quit the program after 2 years and went job-hopping at different start-up companies in Silicon Valley.

In 2008, Danielle Fong came up with the idea of a scooter powered by compressed air energy storage (CAES). When it was presented to physicist and entrepreneur Steve Crane, he liked the concept and invested $100,000. LightSail Designs was born that year. The name LightSail was conceived because its product would be “powered by light, and sail on air”. Another investor, Vinod Khosla, founder of Sun Microsystems, gave $15 million and suggested that the company focus on energy storage for the electrical grid instead of scooter. This prompted the company to be renamed LightSail Energy.

By 2012, LightSail Energy was able to attract interest from several investors including Bill Gates, Peter Thiel, and Chinese-owned Haiyin Capital. It also incorporated a subsidiary in Canada to be headed by Danielle’s father. In 2014, its first project was signed with California Energy Commission. Later, another project in Nova Scotia, Canada was announced. More projects were to be done in other countries such as Hawaii and the Caribbean.

Danielle was included as one of the 2011 Forbes and 2013 Time magazines’ exclusive list of young entrepreneurs under 30.

Know more about Danielle Fong by watching the video below.


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