A Bill Gates’ backed renewable energy project has made a solar energy breakthrough that could lead to replacing the use of fossil fuels in industrial settings
Clean energy startup Heliogen is using artificial intelligence and a large field of mirrors to generate record-breaking heat above 1,000 degrees Celsius, a solar energy breakthrough that means solar energy can replace fossil fuels in cement, glass, steel and other industrial processes for the first time.
“We’ve made great strides in deploying clean energy in our electricity system,” said Bill Gross, Heliogen’s CEO, in a release. “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.”
Gross said the use of artificial intelligence to achieve hyper-concentration of the solar mirrors was pivotal in generating the new heat levels. “If you take a thousand mirrors and have them align exactly to a single point, you can achieve extremely, extremely high temperatures,” Gross said, explaining how the technology could even reach temperatures of 1,500C, which would give it the power to create clean hydrogen.
How Solar Energy is the Solution
Venture capital firm Neotribe and billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong’s Nant Capital are also early backers of the project and celebrated the solar energy breakthrough. “Bill and the team have truly now harnessed the sun,” Soon-Shiong, who sits on Heliogen’s board, told CNN Business. “The potential to humankind is enormous. … The potential to business is unfathomable.”
The news comes after an IEA report last month found that the solar energy industry is growing global supplies of renewable electricity faster than expected, with the agency predicting that capacity could expand by 50% in the next five years.
In other promising news for renewable energy, the International Energy Agency (IEA) recently found that offshore wind is on track to become a $1 trillion industry by 2040 and could provide enough energy to support the entire world’s electricity demand.
Environmentalists hope announcements like the solar energy breakthrough and other technological advancements will help persuade policymakers to reverse new fossil fuel infrastructure projects that experts warn will vastly exceed global emission goals.
“The world is on track to produce about 120% more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C, and 50% more than would be consistent with limiting warming to 2°C,” reports Common Dreams, referencing a new report from leading research organizations.