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by Natalia Revishvili on November 20th, 2019

Bill Gates’ secretive startup can save our planet

A recently launched Bill Gates’ project has achieved a solar breakthrough. The project is aimed to dimish the causes of climate change and save our planet in the long-run.

Heliogen, an energy company that was revealed to the world this Tuesday, told media that they might have found the solution that would be able to transmit that understanding of the energy completely. They claimed that they’ve found a way to use artificial intelligence and a field of mirrors to reflect enough sunlight that will generate heat above 1,000 degrees Celsius. That has never been done before! Notably, the amount of sunlight these guys managed to produce is roughly about a quarter of what you’d find on the surface of the sun. Thus, no surprise the whole concept was once called a “solar oven”.

So, simply put, that means that now, for the first time ever, there is a great alternative to fossil fuels, which can be used to make cement, steel, glass, and other industrial processes.

Heliogen’s founder and CEO, Bill Gross, said:

“We are rolling out technology that can beat the price of fossil fuels and also not make the CO2 emissions. And that’s really the holy grail.”

And we totally agree!

People standing behind that amazing project believe that usage of solar energy can dramatically decrease the greenhouse effect the fumes produced by the commercial industry generate.

Another member of the Heliogen board, Soon-Shiong, also mentioned:

“Bill and the team have truly now harnessed the sun. The potential to humankind is enormous. … The potential to business is unfathomable.”

The one thing differentiating the project from many similar ones is the fact the Heliogen is using a concentrated solar power, unlike the technique of placing rooftop panels to capture the energy from the sun. However, we need to admit that the technology of using the mirrors to reflect the sunlight is not actually new.

This technique was already used to produce electricity and even create heat for the industry. Sometimes it was even used to provide the power needed for oil drilling.

The only issue was laying in the fact that this concentrated solar energy was not getting the temperature high enough to make cement, steel, and other construction materials.

A partner at Greentech Capital Advisors – a clean energy investment advisory bank – Olav Junttila stated:

“You’ve ended up with technologies that can’t really deliver super-heated systems.”

How artificial intelligence can solve the climate crisis?

Heliogen solar energy

As already mentioned above, these means of renewable energy were not yet utilized in the making of cement and steel. And that was the primary issue, as the ever-growing demand for these materials led to serious consequences for humanity. According to the EPA report, industries like schools, hospitals, etc. (those that need building materials) are responsible for more than a fifth of global emissions.

That was the main reason why one of the richest people on Earth decided to become a part of the project and invest money in it.

Bill Gates commented on his decision:

“I’m pleased to have been an early backer of Bill Gross’s novel solar concentration technology. Its capacity to achieve the high temperatures required for these processes is a promising development in the quest to one day replace fossil fuel.”

And while other companies working on solar energy production and trying to incorporate even more steel and other materials into the process to make the technology stiffer, Heliogen’s team decided to turn to artificial intelligence.

The company became innovatory by using computers, automatic edge detection technology, and other innovations to train the placed mirrors to reflect sunlight to one single spot.

Gross believes that the company became innovatory and genius in its own way the first day the plant was set up. He also  added:

“If you take a thousand mirrors and have them align exactly to a single point, you can achieve extremely, extremely high temperatures.”

Heliogen spokespeople even say that one day it might become possible to produce clean hydrogen at scale using the technology the company uses now. That hydrogen, in turn, could be potentially turned into fuel for trucks and airplanes which would increasingly diminish the pollution levels and, thus, stop the climate crisis eventually.

Gross said:

“If you can make hydrogen that’s green, that’s a gamechanger. Long term, we want to be the green hydrogen company.”

Unique technologies used

solar energy and climate crisis

Even though the company is only focused on the usage of the dolar energy at the moment, the representatives of the company don’t exclude the possibility of further expansion of the prospects. The problem all companies targeting solar energy are concerned about is the fact that the sun might not always shine. And yet the demand for the cement and, therefore, heat to produce it is present at all times. Heliogen, however, reassured everyone and said that the developers have already come up with the technology of storing solar energy for the rainy days.

That was the greatest breakthrough of the project. Thus, Heliogen will now try to focus on prooving that they can become a necessary asset that might be used in a large-scale application, like, again, making cement.

Gross said:

“We’re in a race. We just want to scale as fast as possible.”

Even though according to the words of Soon-Shiong, the company is now ready to go public, ther are still some internal processes left to be implemented and optimized. Meanwhile, the company is also busy working with investors who are eager to promote the project as a part of a private round for funding.

Soon-Shiong admitted that he is ready to invest even more and said:

“This is an existential issue for your children, for my children and our grandchildren.”

What are the company’s challenges?

Just like in the case of any big-scale company, Heliogen will need to assure people of its reliability and profitability. But apart from that, they will need to convince large industrial companies out there to switch to the environmental-friendly sources of energy and cut on fossil fuel usage.

Gross admitted:

“If we go to a cement company and say we’ll give you green heat, no CO2, but we’ll also save you money, then it becomes a no-brainer.”

Another strong side of the business’s concept is the fact that unlike fossil fuels, sunlight is totally free and is, presumably, unlimited. Plus, Heliogen is convinced that its technology is already a hundred times superior to the execution of fossil fuel as an energy source solely because it uses AI technology.

Gross finally added:

“The only way to compete is to be extremely clever in how you use your materials. And by using software, we’re able to do that.”

By Natalia Revishvili

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