Despite the many alternatives to fossil fuel, one segment of the market that has struggled to embrace them is manufacturing. Thanks to a company Bill Gates is backing, that may be about to change.
Heliogen is a solar-energy company that is looking to revolutionize manufacturing, thanks to an innovative way of implementing solar panels. By angling the solar mirrors so as to focus all of them on a single point of a tower, they act like a giant magnifying glass, generating ultra-high heat.
According to a press release, the company has achieved a breakthrough: for the first time commercially, a temperature of at least 1,000 degrees Celsius has been reached with solar energy. Previous solar technology had only been able to reach 565 degrees Celsius. The company plans to ultimately reach 1,500 degrees.
As a byproduct of the process, Heliogen can thermo-chemically split water, creating green hydrogen. The company sees it as an additional opportunity for manufacturing companies, as the byproducts can be used for transportation, heavy equipment or resold to a variety of industries.
Until now, fossil fuel alternatives have been more expensive, making it a tough sell for manufacturing to switch over. If Heliogen’s plans are successful, its tech could be the first viable fossil fuel alternative for the industry, not only helping it go green, but saving companies money in the process.
“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.”
“Today, industrial processes like those used to make cement, steel, and other materials are responsible for more than a fifth of all emissions,” said Bill Gates. “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. 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.”