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Heliogen, the clean energy company that is transforming sunlight to create and replace fuels, today announced its launch and that it has – for the first time commercially – concentrated solar energy to exceed temperatures greater than 1,000 degrees Celsius. At that temperature, Heliogen can replace the use of fossil fuels in critical industrial processes, including the production of cement, steel, and petrochemicals, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from these activities. This singular scientific achievement was accomplished at Heliogen’s commercial facility in Lancaster, California.
Heliogen’s mission is to create the world’s first technology that can commercially replace fossil fuels with carbon-free, ultra-high temperature heat from the sun and to transform sunlight into fuels at scale – taking a step towards solving climate change. Its heat technology represents a key technical breakthrough for concentrated solar thermal. Previous commercial concentrating solar thermal systems have been designed to reach temperatures of up to only 565 degrees Celsius – useful for power generation, but insufficient for many industrial processes. Many of these processes require much higher temperatures, which have traditionally been reached through the burning of fossil fuels.
The potential impact of Heliogen’s patented technology is massive. With temperatures from its concentrating solar thermal technology exceeding 1,000 degrees Celsius, Heliogen will be able to replace the fuel that generates greenhouse gas emissions from industrial processes with solar energy for the first time. For instance, cement production – one of the industrial processes well suited to Heliogen’s technology – alone accounts for more than 7% of global CO2 emissions.
In addition to industrial process heat, Heliogen’s technology roadmap calls for temperatures up to 1,500 degrees Celsius. At that temperature, Heliogen can perform CO2-splitting and water-splitting to make 100% fossil-free fuels such as hydrogen or syngas.
Heliogen is able to achieve these breakthrough temperatures as a result of its technology that uniquely uses advanced computer vision software to hyper-accurately align a large array of mirrors to reflect sunlight to a single target. Heliogen’s founder and chief executive officer is Bill Gross. The Heliogen team includes scientists and engineers from Caltech, MIT, and others and is based in Pasadena, California. Heliogen is working with Parsons Corporation, a defense, intelligence, and critical infrastructure company.
“Today, industrial processes like those used to make cement, steel, and other materials are responsible for more than a fifth of all emissions,” said Bill Gates, one of the company’s backers. “These materials are everywhere in our lives, but we don’t have any proven breakthroughs that will give us affordable, zero-carbon versions of them. If we’re going to get to zero-carbon emissions overall, we have a lot of inventing to do. I’m pleased to have been an early backer of Bill Gross’s novel solar concentration technology. Its capacity to achieve the high temperatures required for these processes is a promising development in the quest to one day replace fossil fuel.”
Other investors in Heliogen include venture capital firm Neotribe and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the Los Angeles-based investor and entrepreneur, through his investment firm, Nant Capital, a division of NantWorks. Neotribe’s founder and managing director, Swaroop ‘Kittu’ Kolluri, and Dr. Soon-Shiong have joined Heliogen’s board of directors.