August 4, 2021

Heliogen awarded $39 million for sCO2 project

2 min read

Heliogen, a startup founded by entrepreneur Bill Gross, intends to boost concentrated solar energy with sCO2 technology in industrial applications unsuitable for solar PV. The tech is set to slash costs, water requirements, and the impact on the environment. The move comes as the US Department of Energy is making huge investments in supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) as the primary key to make concentrated solar power a competitive and cost-effective option for decarbonized high-temperature industrial processes. 

One of Heliogen’s currently running sCO2 projects has already received $39 million in funding from the DoE, compared to $1 to $2 million for similar projects in other companies. Heliogen will utilize the funds to manufacture and operate a supercritical carbon dioxide power cycle fitted with thermal power storage capacity, heated by concentrated solar power from a heliostat field, the DoE website reports. The startup’s proposed CSP project uses sCO2 to make power. sCO2 is carbon dioxide in a state between gas and fluid and is two times denser than regular steam. This means, according to a DoE report released in 2015,sCO2 is far more efficient than other turbines generating energy and can thus lower costs, plant size and footprint as well as water consumption. 

In an announcement made on November 12th, there are an additional 66 projects receiving funding from the DoE for research and development in the solar energy industry. The projects are from a wide range of trends in the industry, from AI to agricultural uses. The DoE has been supporting CSP projects for some time, awarding about $575 million in funding since 2007 to support research on CSP. sCO2 projects have received more funding in the past few years. DoE aims to reduce CSP’s cost to lower than $0.05 per kWh by 2030 for systems with at least 12 hours of thermal energy storage without price subsidies. 

Heliogen’s next-gen CSP technology is capable of producing temperatures above 1000 degrees Celsius, which may be the reason it has received plenty of backing from the DoE. The company was founded in 2019 by Gross, also the founder of tech incubator Idealab, with support from Microsoft boss Bill Gates, cancer drug entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong and AOL founder Steve Case. According to the startup’s website, the high temperatures provided by its CSP tech could be used to run hard to decarbonize industrial functions such as in steel, cement, and petrochemical industries. 

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