A new company, Heliogen, announced it has achieved for the first time commercially very high temperatures from solar energy that could replace the need for fossil fuels in many heavily energy-intensive industries such as steel, cement, and petrochemical production.

Heliogen, announced its launch last Tuesday alongside the solar breakthrough that it had concentrated solar energy to exceed temperatures greater than 1,000° Celsius at its commercial facility in Lancaster, California.

Heliogen solar concentrator facility in Lancaster CA. Image Credit Heliogen Corporation. Click image for the largest view.

Heliogen and its strategic partner Parsons Corporation have been able to achieve the breakthrough temperatures with the help of advanced computer vision software, a branch of AI, to hyper-accurately align a large array of mirrors to reflect sunlight to a single target. The Heliogen team includes scientists and engineers from Caltech, MIT, and other leading institutions and is based in Pasadena, California.

Parsons has more than a decade of experience with the development and implementation of innovative solar thermal projects. “As a company, we deliver sustainable solutions to our customers and we look forward to bringing Heliogen’s breakthrough technology to scale with our industry partners,” said Michael Chung, Vice President of Energy Solutions, Parsons Corporation.

Previous commercial concentrating solar thermal systems have reached up to only half of the 1,000° Celsius that Heliogen has achieved. Temperatures of up to 565° Celsius from solar thermal systems are enough for power generation, but not enough for many heavy industry processes.

With its technology to reach more than 1,000° Celsius from solar energy, Heliogen hopes that it can help replace fossil fuels that are being burned for heavy industrial processes.

In addition to industrial process heat, Heliogen’s technology roadmap calls for temperatures up to 1,500° Celsius. At that temperature, Heliogen can perform CO2-splitting and water-splitting to make 100 percent fossil-free fuels such as hydrogen or syngas.

Bill Gross, Heliogen’s CEO and founder, and founder and chairman at Idealab said, “Heliogen represents a technological leap forward in addressing the other 75 percent 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.”

The clean energy startup is backed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates who said in a separate statement, “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.”

Parsons already sells to an existing customer base and very well may sell installations of this technology. Once a few get going, solid ‘in the field’ numbers will become available and the technology may well find itself a major market or quietly die away. Without any fuel costs, the prospect looks pretty good.

The press release notes that cement production alone – one of the industrial processes well suited to Heliogen’s technology – alone accounts for more than 7 percent of global CO2 emissions.

Its a big market to crack.


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