Solar Energy Company Makes High-Temp Claims
Clean energy company Heliogen recently announced that it has concentrated solar energy to exceed temperatures greater than 1,000 degrees Celsius, claiming that it can use the technology to replace the use of fossil fuels for industrial purposes, such as the production of cement, steel and petrochemicals.
The breakthrough was achieved at its commercial facility in Lancaster, California.
“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% 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.”
Most commercial concentrations for solar thermal systems only reach temperatures of up to 565 C—useful for power, but not for industrial implementation.
Heliogen, with its team of scientists and engineers, is working with Parsons Corporation, which is involved in the defense, intelligence and critical infrastructure markets. The firm says it was able to achieve this through its computer vision software to “to hyper-accurately align a large array of mirrors to reflect sunlight to a single target.”
The company is backed by investors such as Bill Gates, who says that the technology is vital to a zero-carbon breakthrough.
“If we’re going to get to zero-carbon emissions overall, we have a lot of inventing to do,” Gates said. “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.”
However, some are skeptical of the great feat.
For example, Wired notes that similar technology has already been developed in Europe with the company Solpart, which is aiming to create a partially solar-powered cement plant in Spain by 2025.
Last year, researchers at that company used an experimental solar reactor to replicate the same process that Heliogen is talking about.
Jan Baeyens, the Managing Director of European Powder and Process Technology and a member of the Solpart team, described to the publication two issues: a lack of storage system and a way to scale up production.
The thought, said Baeyens, is that the technology would more than likely produce hybrid plants, instead of convincing the industry to fully decarbonize.