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Bill Gates-Backed Clean Energy Startup Develops Solar Breakthrough

Dec. 2, 2019
Heliogen’s new technology uses mirrors to create temperatures exceeding 1,000°C, designed for use in industrial processes that require high temperatures and emit a large proportion of greenhouse gases.

Heliogen, the Pasadena, CA-based clean energy startup working to transform sunlight to create and replace fossil fuels, recently announced that it has developed technology to concentrate solar energy to exceed temperatures of 1,000°C. At that temperature, Heliogen can replace the use of fossil fuels in critical industrial processes, such as the production of cement, steel and petrochemicals, vastly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The achievement was accomplished at the company’s commercial facility in Lancaster, CA. The technology uses advanced computer vision software to align a large array of mirrors to reflect sunlight to a single target.

Bill Gates was one of the original investors behind this secretive startup. Other investors include the venture capital firm Neotribe and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the Los Angeles-based investor and entrepreneur, through his investment firm, Nant Capital. Both Soon-Shiong and Neotribe’s founder, Swaroop “Kittu” Kolluri, have joined Heliogen’s board of directors.

“Today, industrial processes like those used to make cement, steel, and other materials are responsible for more than a fifth of all emissions,” said Gates in the press release. “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.

Heliogen’s mission is to create the world’s fist 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, according to the press release. While previous technologies were able to reach temperatures of 565°C, temperatures were not high enough to work in many industrial processes, which burn fossil fuels. With Heliogen’s new technology, it can replace the fuel that generates greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, Heliogen’s technology roadmap calls for temperatures up to 1,500°C. At that temperature, the company can perform CO2-splitting and water-splitting to make 100% fossil-free fuels such as hydrogen or syngas.

The company’s team comprises of Bill Gross, founder and CEO, along with scientists and engineers from Caltech, MIT and other leading institutions. Heliogen has partnered with Parsons Corporation, a company based in the defense, intelligence and critical infrastructure markets.

“The world has a limited window to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Gross, according to the press release. “We’ve made great strides in deploying clean energy in our electricity system. But electricity accounts for less than a quarter of global energy demand. Heliogen represents a technological leap forward in addressing the other 75% of energy demand: the use of fossil fuels for industrial processes and transportation. With low-cost, ultra-high temperature process heat, we have an opportunity to make meaningful contributions to solving the climate crisis.”

To read more, visit Heliogen’s website.