Bill Gates is one of the richest men in America, but he uses a good deal of his money for philanthropic causes. He is a proponent for higher taxes for the rich, and his family “appear[s] to be on a course to give away about 99.96% of their wealth.” And now, he can consider himself a major player in the fight against climate damage.
A secret clean energy startup called Heliogen backed by Gates has gone public with the announcement of a new technology that uses concentrated solar energy to exceed temperatures greater than 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,800 degrees Fahrenheit).
So what does that mean? Basically, Heliogen discovered a way to use artificial intelligence and a field of mirrors to reflect so much sunlight that it generates extreme heat above 1,000 degrees Celsius. And at that temperature, Heliogen can replace the use of fossil fuels in industrial processes with carbon-free sunlight—which will drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Heliogen’s work is being hailed as an important step towards getting off fossil fuels.
“We are rolling out technology that can beat the price of fossil fuels and also not make the CO2 emissions,” Bill Gross, Heliogen’s founder and CEO, told CNN Business. “And that’s really the holy grail.”
Bill Gates spoke highly of Heliogen’s mission and said he was “pleased to have been an early backer.”
“Today, industrial processes like those used to make cement, steel, and other materials are responsible for more than a fifth of all emissions. These materials are everywhere in our lives but we don’t have any proven breakthroughs that will give us affordable, zero-carbon versions of them,” Gates said.
“If we’re going to get to zero-carbon emissions overall, we have a lot of inventing to do […]Its capacity to achieve the high temperatures required for these processes is a promising development in the quest to one day replace fossil fuel.”
Heliogen was able to reach these temperatures through computer vision software, automatic edge detection and other sophisticated technology to train a field of mirrors to reflect solar beams to one single spot.
“If you take a thousand mirrors and have them align exactly to a single point, you can achieve extremely, extremely high temperatures,” said Heliogen’s founder and CEO Bill Gross said.
“Heliogen represents a technological leap forward in addressing the other 75% of energy demand: the use of fossil fuels for industrial processes and transportation,” Gross explained. “With low-cost, ultra-high temperature process heat, we have an opportunity to make meaningful contributions to solving the climate crisis.”