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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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Could Bill Gates’ Secret Startup Kill Fossil Fuels?

A clean energy startup, backed by Bill Gates, says it has achieved for the first time commercially very high temperatures from solar energy that could replace the need for fossil fuels in many heavily energy-intensive industries such as steel, cement, and petrochemicals production.

The new company, Heliogen, announced its launch on Tuesday alongside the solar breakthrough that it had concentrated solar energy to exceed temperatures greater than 1,000 degrees Celsius.

Heliogen and its strategic partner Parsons Corporation have been able to achieve the breakthrough temperatures with the help of computer vision software, a branch of AI, to hyper-accurately align a large array of mirrors to reflect sunlight to a single target.

Previous commercial concentrating solar thermal systems have reached up to only half of the 1,000 degrees Celsius that Heliogen has achieved, the new company—whose team includes scientists and engineers from Caltech and MIT—said in a statement. Temperatures of up to 565 degrees Celsius from solar thermal systems are enough for power generation, but not enough for many heavy industry processes.  

With its technology to reach more than 1,000 degrees Celsius from solar energy, Heliogen hopes that it can help replace fossil fuels that are being burnt for the heavy industrial processes.

“Heliogen represents a technological leap forward in addressing the other 75 percent 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,” said Bill Gross, Heliogen’s CEO and founder, and founder and chairman at Idealab.

“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,” Bill Gates said in a statement.

Apart from Gates Ventures, Bill Gates is also supporting Breakthrough Energy together with other billionaires, including Jeff Bezos, Marc Benioff, Richard Branson, and Jack Ma. Breakthrough Energy invests in new technologies “to find better, more efficient and cheaper energy sources.”

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on November 20 2019 said:
    No one even the legendary Bill Gates can kill fossil fuels.

    A few weeks ago, Bill Gates castigated the global fossil fuel divestment movement for wasting their time in exerting pressure on investors to divest from fossil fuels rather than adopting a more positive approach and encourage investments in innovative clean energy. Being the brilliant businessman he is, Bill Gates is doing it by example.

    A clean energy company, Heliogen, which he backs said it has achieved for the first time commercially very high temperatures from solar energy that could replace the need for fossil fuels in many heavily energy-intensive industries such as steel, cement, and petrochemicals production.

    This amounts to a real breakthrough in the use of solar energy and it opens the door for a wider use of it not only for electricity generation and powering water desalination plants but also for replacing fossil fuels in the petrochemical industry and the plastic industry both of which account for 14% and 4% respectively of global oil use and other heavy industries.

    However, such a breakthrough will have no impact on oil use for global transport. It is very doubtful that an alternative as versatile and practicable as oil could replace oil in global transport well into the future.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
  • Lee James on November 21 2019 said:
    A breakthrough in solar high-temp helps round out efforts to move away from burning fossil fuel, but we're still fossil-fuel dependent. The point of this demonstration project is that we're still working at it; bit by bit we'll throw off the yoke of fossil fuel.

    We've loved to see the USA in our Chevrolet and go for Sunday drives. Fun, but today we know the full price of burning fossil fuel. Besides pollution, there's a couple of annoying national security implications for oil dependency. Who's gonna are the oil exporting nations, and what kind of weapons will Russia and Iran buy with the oil revenue?
  • EDUARDO DEL VALLE on November 25 2019 said:
    If you look at the history of discoveries and breakthroughs, it takes about 25 years from the discovery to see initial implementation in the market place. The next key issue is "scalability."In other words, how long would it take for this breakthrough to have a major impact? If we look at the time that it took from the first time electrical generation was first put into practice in New York City, to the time that it covered most U.S. consumers it took almost 80 years. And if you look at the world, there is still 1/3 of mankind that has no access to electricity.
  • Nazir K. Ali on November 26 2019 said:
    For a novice like me it is an excellent startup that harnesses the sun's energy thru reflective mirrors and storage batteries on a stormy and cloudy day.
    The question arises on the cost of purchase, installation, spare parts, maintenance, staff training and backup service and not to forget the fine print. For the time being it is just wind and solar power for me. Salams

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