Startup of secret energy supported by Bill Gates achieves breakthrough solar energy

Heliogen, a clean energy company that came out of stealth mode Tuesday, said it has discovered a way to use artificial intelligence and a field of mirrors to reflect so much sunlight that it generates extreme heat above 1,000 degrees.

Essentially, Heliogen created a solar oven – one that can reach temperatures that are about a quarter of what you find on the sun's surface.

The breakthrough means that for the first time concentrated solar energy can be used to create the extreme heat required to make cement, steel, glass and other industrial processes. In other words, carbon-free sunlight can replace fossil fuels in a heavily carbon-emitting corner of the economy that has been untouched by the clean energy revolution.

"We are rolling out technology that can beat the price of fossil fuels and neither do CO2 emissions," Bill Gross, Heliogen's founder and CEO, told CNN Business. "And that's really the holy grail."

Heliogen, also backed by billionaire Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, believes the patented technology could dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the industry. For example, cement accounts for 7% of global CO2 emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

"Bill and the team have really taken advantage of the sun now," said Soon-Shiong, who also sits on the Heliogen board, CNN Business. "The potential for humanity is enormous. … The potential for business is without reason."

  Heliogen, supported by Bill Gates, has achieved a breakthrough that can allow cement producers to transition from fossil fuels. The company uses artificial intelligence and a variety of mirrors to create huge amounts of heat, mainly harnessing the sun's power.
Unlike traditional solar power, which uses roof panels to capture the sun's energy, Heliogen improves what is known as concentrated solar energy. This technology, which uses mirrors to reflect the sun to a single point, is not new.
Concentrated solar energy has previously been used to generate electricity and in some limited way to generate heat for the industry. It is even used in Oman to provide the power needed to drill for oil.
The problem is that concentrated sun in the past could not get temperatures warm enough to make cement and steel.

"You've come up with technologies that can't really deliver super-heated systems," said Olav Junttila, a partner at Greentech Capital Advisors, a clean energy investment bank that has advised concentrated solar companies in the past.

Using artificial intelligence to solve the climate crisis

This means that renewable energy has not yet disrupted industrial processes such as cement and steel production. And that's a problem because the world has an insatiable appetite for those materials. For example, cement is used to make concrete required for building homes, hospitals and schools. These industries are responsible for more than a fifth of global emissions, according to EPA.
That's why the potential of Los Angeles-based Heliogen attracted investment from Gates, Microsoft ( MSFT ) co-founder who recently transitioned Amazon [19659016] ( AMZN ) CEO Jeff Bezos as the richest person in the world.

"I am happy to have been an early supporter of Bill Gross's new 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 for a day to replace fossil fuels."

  Heliogen, founded by Bill Gross, must convince industrial companies that it is worth the investment to switch to solar technology.

[19659006] While other concentrated solar plants were addressing this temperature problem by adding steel to make the technology stiffer and firmer, Heliogen and the team of scientists and engineers turned to artificial intelligence.

Heliogen uses computer vision software, automatic edge detection and other sophisticated technology to train a field of mirrors to reflect the sun's rays into a single location.

"If you take a thousand mirrors and make them adjust accurately to a single point, you can achieve ext remely, extremely high temperatures," said Gross, who added that Heliogen made his breakthrough the first day it hit the plant on.

Heliogen said that it generates so much heat that the technology can eventually be used to make pure hydrogen at scale. The carbon-free hydrogen can then be converted into fuel for trucks and aircraft.

"If you can make hydrogen that's green, it's a player," Gross said. "Long-term, we want to be the green hydrogen company."

& # 39; No-brainer & # 39;

For now, Heliogen is completely focused on solar energy. One problem with solar energy is that the sun does not always shine, but industrial companies such as cement producers have a constant need for heat. Heliogen said it would solve the problem by relying on storage systems that can hold solar energy for rainy days.

Now that it has made this breakthrough, Heliogen will focus on demonstrating how the technology can be used in a large-scale application, such as making cement.

"We're in a race. We just want to scale as quickly as possible," Gross said.

After the big application, Soon-Shiong said Heliogen would probably be ready to go public.

  & # 39; Nervous and scared. & # 39; Coal workers fear retirement after Murray Energy bankruptcy

Meanwhile, Heliogen will require a healthy dose of capital to scale, and it is working with investors on a private financing round. Soon, Shiong signaled that he plans to invest more in Heliogen. Heliogen refused to provide information on how much money it has collected so far.

"This is an existential question for your children, for my children and our grandchildren," said Soon-Shiong.

Heliogen's biggest challenge will be convincing industrial companies that use fossil fuels to make the investment required to transition. Gross said the company has been talking to potential customers privately and plans to announce its first customers soon.

"If we go to a cement company and say we want to give you green heat, no CO2, but we also save you money, then it will be a no-brainer," Gross said.

Its biggest selling point is the fact that unlike fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, sunlight is free. And Heliogen claims that the technology is already economical against fossil fuels because of its dependence on AI.

"The only way to compete is to be extremely smart when using your materials. And by using software we can do that," Gross said.

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