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.

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“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

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