Bill Gates-backed start-up Heliogen pushes solar thermal forward

Heliogen’s Commercial Facility in Lancaster, California. (Photo: Business Wire)

November 19 (Renewables Now) - Heliogen, a newly-launched clean energy start-up based in California, today announced “a key technical breakthrough” for concentrated solar thermal systems that would enable the use of fossil fuels in critical industrial processes.

The company, which counts Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates as an early backer, has achieved a temperature higher than 1,000 degrees Celsius with a commercial solar thermal system. This compares to temperatures of up to only 565 degrees Celsius reached by previous commercial systems, which, Heliogen explains, is sufficient for power generation, but not for many industrial processes such as the production of cement, steel and petrochemicals.

Heliogen is even targeting temperatures up to 1,500 degrees Celsius, at which it could perform carbon dioxide (CO2)-splitting and water-splitting to make 100% fossil-free fuels such as hydrogen or syngas.

“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,” said Bill Gross, founder and CEO of Heliogen.

In addition to Gates, Heliogen has also been backed by venture capital firm Neotribe and entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong through his investment arm Nant Capital.

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