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Bill Gates-backed ‘sunlight refinery’ lands funds to speed novel technology’s roll-out

Renewable energy outfit Heliogen has reeled in $108m from two funding rounds to push its new-look concentrating solar powered (CSP) ‘sunlight refinery’ concept through to commercialisation.

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The Bill Gates-backed outfit, which is developing the design around an array of mirrored heliostats and an artificial intelligence-driven control system that together will be able to generate ultra-high temperature heat that can be used in power generation, hydrogen production or industrial decarbonisation.

Among Heliogen’s new investors are international steel giant ArcelorMittal, US utility Edison International, venture capital firms Prime Movers Lab, Ocgrow Ventures and AT Gekko, and a private investment partnership made up of 8090 Partners, Gordon Crawford and Rashaun Williams.

“This infusion of new support for Heliogen comes at a time when the paradigm shift toward clean energy is even further accelerated by the new realities the world is facing,” said Heligoen CEO Bill Gross.

“We’re being granted the resources to do more projects that address the most carbon-intensive human activities and work toward our goals of lowering the price and emissions of energy for everyone on the planet.”

Pinakin Chaubal, ArcelorMittal’s CTO, said: “Heliogen is providing steel producers with an exciting new technology which could make a valuable contribution to cutting carbon emissions.

“Its technology holds the potential to complement our existing decarbonisation initiatives and efforts to secure a more sustainable footprint for our company.”

Heliogen made its technology breakthrough in late-2019, when it demonstrated a prototype of its CSP concept that could concentrate solar irradiation to temperatures greater than 1,000°C, using advanced computer vision software to align the design’s mirrors to focus sunlight to create high-temperature, high power-production thermal energy system.

The company says the baseline system evolved since “will provide industrial-grade heat that will be capable of replacing fossil fuels in processes including the production of cement, steel, and petrochemicals”.

The technology could alternatively be used for power generation by the addition of a supercritical CO2 turbine, and for green hydrogen production if linked to an electrolyser.

Earlier in 2021, Heliogen and mining major Rio Tinto inked a deal to deploy the CSP concept at a borates mine in Boron, California, to “significantly” help decarbonise the facility’s industrial processes.

Gross said the new investment would “accelerate our mission to mitigate the climate crisis through rapid deployment of this decarbonisation technology”, with the funds to be put towards development of “multiple” ‘sunlight refineries’, starting with first facilities in the US.

Read More: Bill Gates-backed ‘sunlight refinery’ lands funds to speed novel technology’s roll-out

2021-06-15 13:03:00

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