What’s Going On Here?
Technology has been developed to produce carbon-free energy from the sun, powerful enough to rival fossil fuels. This is the first time renewable energy has been able to be used for powering heavy industries, such as the manufacturing of concrete, steel and petrochemicals.
What Does This Mean?
The technology is called ‘concentrated solar power’. It works by using A LOT of mirrors angled to reflect the sun’s energy on to one target spot like a gas pipe and therefore heating it up.
“It’s a little bit like an enormous magnifying glass” Bill Gross, founder and CEO of Heliogen.
Some power plants have been using this method for a while now but they haven’t been able to produce high enough temperatures to present a potential alternative to fossil fuels used in heavy industrial processes, aviation and transport.
The secret to Heliogen’s breakthrough is the use of high resolution cameras that look at the field of mirrors in real-time and control their angles to make sure they are angled with high precision. It’s this that has enabled temperatures of over 1,000 degrees celcius to be reached, finally making solar power a worthy opponent to fossil fuels.
Why Should We Care?
Previously only fossil fuels were able to produce energy powerful enough for ‘heavy industry’ processes responsible for ⅕ of global carbon emissions.
Petrochemicals are used to make millions of household products from plastics and rubber to fibres and films and it’s estimated that we’re going to need more concrete in the next 25 years – another billion tonnes to be precise. This is predicted to produce 470 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050 – not exactly the right direction we were hoping for…
Fossil fuels are still dominating world energy usage with renewables only accounting for 25% of the world’s power output last year.
The startup behind the technology, Heliogen (backed by Bill Gates) has a mission for it to replace fossil fuels at large scales. Replacing fossil fuels in heavy industry will see a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gases.
We did say that 2019 was the year for renewable energy… just sayin’!
- Learn more about Heliogen’s work
- Have a look at how you source your energy- a survey by consumer magazine Which? reported their top 3 green energy suppliers to be: Ecotricity, Green Star & Good Energy…
- Keep an eye on the UK’s usage of renewables.