Solar concentration startup Heliogen basks in $108M of new funding – TechCrunch
Sunlight is a great source of energy, but it rarely gets hot enough to fry an egg, let alone melt steel. Heliogen aims to change that with its high-tech concentrated solar technology and has raised more than $ 100 million to test its 1,000-degree solar oven at a number of participating mines and refineries.
We covered Heliogen when it launched in 2019, and the details in this article are still at the heart of the company’s technology. Computer vision techniques are used to carefully control a large group of mirrors that reflect and concentrate sunlight so much that it can reach over 1,000 degrees Celsius, almost twice as much as previous solar concentrators. “It’s like a death ray,” explained founder Bill Gross at the time.
This allows the system to replace fossil fuels and other legacy systems in many applications that require such temperatures, such as mining and smelting. By using a Heliogen concentrator, they could run on sunlight for most of the day and rely only on other sources at night, potentially cutting their fuel consumption in half and consequently both money and stepping into a greener future.
Both goals suggest why utilities and a large mining and steel company are now investors. Heliogen raised a $ 25 million A-2 led by Prime Movers Lab, but soon pulled together a much larger “bridge expansion round” in their $ 83 million terminology that miners ArcelorMittal, Edison International, Ocgrow Ventures, AT Gekko and. brought in more.
The money will be used both for the further development of the “Sunlight Refinery”, as Heliogen calls it, and for the use of some actual on-site installations that would work in real production processes on a large scale. “We are constantly improving design and costs to increase efficiency and reduce costs,” a company representative told me.
One of these pilot locations will be in Boron, California, where Rio Tinto operates a borate mine and will incorporate Heliogen’s technology into its usual on-site operations, according to a letter of intent signed in March. Another letter of intent with ArcelorMittal will “evaluate the potential of Heliogen’s products in several ArcelorMittal steel mills”. Plants are planned in the USA, MENA and the Asia-Pacific region.
In addition to mining and smelting, the technology could also be used to generate carbon-free hydrogen. That would be a big step towards building a functioning hydrogen infrastructure for next-generation fuel supply, as current methods make it difficult to do without fossil fuels at all. And no doubt there are other industrial processes that could benefit from a free and carbon-free source of high heat.
“We are gaining the resources to run more projects that address the most carbon-intensive human activities and work towards our goals of lowering the price and emissions of energy for everyone on the planet,” Gross said in a press release announcing the round (s). “We thank all of our investors for making it possible for us to pursue our mission and offer the world technology that makes it possible to achieve a post-carbon economy.”