Charlie Buttrey

November 20, 2019

While electric cars and solar-powered homes and buildings have made great strides recently, renewable energy has not yet made any inroads into intense industrial processes such as cement and steelmaking, which account for a significant percentage of fossil fuel usage.

Until now.

Bill Gates recently announced that Heliogen, a clean energy company that he has backed, has developed 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, or temperatures that are roughly a quarter of what you’d find on the surface of the sun.

The breakthrough means that, for the first time, concentrated solar energy can be used to create the extreme heat required to make cement, steel, glass and other industrial processes. In other words, carbon-free sunlight can replace fossil fuels in a heavy carbon-emitting corner of the economy that has been untouched by the clean energy revolution. Says Bill Gross, Heliogen’s founder and CEO, “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.” Adds billionaire (and Los Angeles Times owner) Patrick Soon-Shiong, who is also investing in the venture, Heliogen has “truly now harnessed the sun.  The potential to humankind is enormous. … The potential to business is unfathomable.”

Meanwhile, two of America’s largest coal plants shut down permanently this month. The emissions reductions from those two plants equal all the emission reductions from coal plant shut-downs in 2015, which was itself a record year for coal plant emission reductions.

Maybe all is not (yet) lost.

© 2019 Charlie Buttrey Law by Nomad Communications