The alternative energy space has been heating up in the past decade. With money flowing in from both the private sector and Public sectorThe industry is preparing to get hotter. But few companies in space can bring in heat like helogena Concentrated Solar Energy Company in Southern California.
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) is created by coordinating a series of mirrors or lenses to reflect a large area of sunlight into a small receiver – usually located on a tower in the middle of a field. Most of these CSP installations look like an eco-friendly version of Peter Jackson’s depiction of Isengard Tower.
The focused light collected at the receiver on the tower produces heat that becomes thermal energy, which can be stored in the rocky bottom and used day and night.
“Heliogen makes a massive magnifying glass,” says Bill Gross, entrepreneur and founder of Heliogen. “We focus sunlight on higher temperatures and we can use that to avoid burning fossil fuels.”
Using a field of small ordinary glass mirrors (called heliostats) and extraordinary computer vision powered by artificial intelligence, Heliogen was able to generate thermal energy at steel melting temperatures north of 1,500 degrees Celsius (one-third of the surface of the Sun).
Heliogen’s ability to generate and store heat at such high temperatures makes its product particularly useful for the industrial world. High carbon footprint processes such as cement manufacturing, steel making, and glass manufacturing all use heat instead of electricity. Heliogen is trying to help these industries by providing an environmentally friendly product that also costs less than burning fossil fuels to generate heat.
“My dream has always been to provide the planet with renewable energy,” Gross says. “The impact halogen can have is to show the world that it is actually possible. Companies can save money, go zero emissions, and have energy security at the same time.”
CSP generation differs greatly in both method and product from the most well-known Photovoltaic power generation (These are the paintings you see on top of houses.) These photovoltaic panels are made of silicon to generate electricity stored in batteries made of lithium and cobalt. Heliogen uses small mirrors made of abundantly available glass to concentrate thermal energy and ordinary rocks to store it.
But CSP is not a new concept. The first version of the CSP plant was built by Professor Giovanni Francia In Genoa, Italy, in the late 1960s. This plant manages to reach temperatures of up to 500 degrees Celsius. Heliogen plants have the advantage of artificially intelligent computer vision that is in constant contact with heliostats. These helicopters will be directed toward or away from the receiver to achieve whatever heat meets the customer’s needs.
Because this heat is stored in what looks like a giant thermos filled with rocks, the Helogen Refinery is able to provide a steady flow of 5 megawatt-hours of energy day and night. That’s enough power to power more than 3,000 American homes.
A halogen can do a few different things with the heat it produces. They can feed this heat directly into heavy industrial processes that need a thousand degrees of temperature to operate, they can power carbon dioxide turbines to power industrial facilities, and they can separate water to produce green hydrogen fuel that can be used in everything from transportation to home heating.
As the world increasingly experiments with alternative energy, the future may be bright for Halogen. Where do we see ourselves in ten years? Gross thinks. “Plants like this are all over the world. In every sunny region you have to build these. We want to build these in Australia, Chile, South Africa, North Africa…a thousand solar helium refineries on each of the three continents. If we can build that in the few decades Next, it will avoid 5%, over their lifetime, of all carbon dioxide emissions for the planet.”