H2 View understands Heliogen has created the world’s first technology that can commercially replace fossil fuels with carbon-free ultra-high temperature heat from the sun, taking a major step towards solving climate change. I’ve heard your technology be described as “one enormous, very accurate magnifying glass”. How does your technology work?
Steve Schell (SS): At Heliogen, we are creating an innovative, next-generation form of concentrated solar thermal (CST) technology in the category of ‘central receiver systems’. In a central receiver CST system, sunlight is collected and concentrated by a large array of ‘heliostats’, or mirrors mounted on two-axis tracking systems allowing them to reflect sunlight to a desired location as the sun moves across the sky. These heliostats will produce highly concentrated sunlight by collectively aiming their reflected beams to a common location at the top of a tower. A device called a ‘solar receiver’ is mounted atop that tower, where the concentrated sunlight is absorbed and will produce high temperatures in a heat transfer medium. That heat can then be used directly, or to produce power, or to drive other thermal processes like production of green hydrogen or synthetic fuels.
Heliogen has innovated in several of these areas. Our AI-enabled heliostat tracking system has the potential to achieve higher accuracy using smaller, lower-cost heliostats, faster construction timelines, and continuous monitoring and feedback on the health and performance of the field. In addition, our solar receivers are designed to operate at higher temperatures than traditional CST, which we expect to result in higher efficiencies and more cost-effective thermal energy storage.
We also understand that Heliogen’s technology can not only replace fossil fuels but also transform sunlight into fuels, such as green hydrogen. Tell us more about your plans for green hydrogen production?
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