Date:October 29, 2020

The Secretive Startup, Heliogen, Backed Up By Bill Gates, Achieves Solar Breakthrough

Heliogen is a company, which has been working secretly for a while, that uses clean energy transforming sunlight to create and replace fossil fuels. Throughout its behind-the-scenes work is Bill Gates, which has been supporting and investing in the company, alongside the billionaire Patric Soon-Shiong.

Heliogen’s technology is based on concentrating solar power (CSP). This means using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and mirrors to magnify the energy of the sun. By using this process, Heliogen has been able to produce extreme temperatures of over 1,000°C.

According to a press release the company made on the 19th of November 2019, with these high temperatures, Heliogen can replace the use of fossil fuels in critical industrial processes, including the production of cement, steel, and petrochemicals, dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions from these activities.

The founder and CEO of Heliogen, Bill Gross, told CNN Busines: “We are rolling out technology that can beat the price of fossil fuels and also not make the CO2 emissions, and that’s the holy grail.”

Further quoting the press release by Heliogen, “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 major 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.”

Explaining how the system works, the company explains on its official website:

“The breakthrough in Heliogen’s technology starts with our patented closed-loop control system that makes our field of mirrors act as a multi-acre magnifying glass to concentrate sunlight. The HelioMax system is an industry first and a critical step in harnessing the power of the sun. Our ability to concentrate and capture sunlight allows us to create carbon-free, ultra-high temperature heat (HelioHeat) commercially for the first time.”

“From there, HelioHeat can be used by customers as an alternative to burning fossil fuels, which would significantly reduce energy costs, dramatically lower carbon emissions, and help make great strides in reaching and exceeding corporate sustainability goals.”

“The Heliogen technology is also capable of thermo-chemically splitting water to create 100% green hydrogen, which we are working to develop as our first HelioFuel.”

A study by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the cement industry is the 2nd largest industrial emitter of carbon dioxide. This industry accounts for around 7% of global emissions and is also the third-largest industrial energy consumer in the world – and this directly affects climate change.

And to differentiate the Heliogen company from the rest is its ability to create a greener and cleaner energy. But also another thing that makes it stand out is the ability to melt steel and heat cement.

“The world has a limited window to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Bill Gross, CEO and Founder, Heliogen, and Founder and Chairman, Idealab. “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 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 Heliogen team includes scientists and engineers from Caltech, MIT, and other leading institutions and is based in Pasadena, California, and also it cooperates with Parsons Corporation (NYSE: PSN), a global leader in the defense, intelligence, and critical infrastructure markets.

As a strategic partner of Heliogen, Parson 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.

“I’m pleased to have been an early backer of Bill Gross’s novel solar concentration technology,” Gates said in a statement. “Its capacity to achieve the high temperatures required for these processes is a promising development in the quest to one day replace fossil fuel.”

Heliogen said it wants to use this technology to eventually create clean hydrogen, which could then be turned into a carbon-free fuel for use in airplanes and trucks. “If you can make hydrogen that’s green, that’s a gamechanger,” Gross said. “Long term, we want to be the green hydrogen company.”

The company’s next focus will be to demonstrate how this can be used in large scale production, such as cement production, and come up with proper storage systems for the days when the sun isn’t shining. Once this large scale production is achieved, Heliogen said they will likely be ready to present their technology to the public.

“We’re in a race. We just want to scale as fast as possible,” said Gross.