Heliogen
Index Award 2021 Finalists
Heliogen
Magnifying glasses harnessing 1,000 degrees of sunpower

What’s the design in a nutshell?
A renewable energy tech company that’s developed the world’s first technology to replace fossil fuels with carbon-free, ultra-high temperature heat from the sun on a commercial scale.

Why is it needed?
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, emissions from fossil fuels and industries are the dominant cause of global heating. In 2018, it accounted for 89% of global CO2 emissions. To limit global heating by 1.5 degrees celsius, we need to drastically reduce our emissions by 45% within this decade.

Even though we’ve seen the use of fossil fuels being lowered, the Covid-19 pandemic has propelled a shift back to using fossil fuels, probably due to its cost-effectiveness and fossil fuel industries having received stimulus packages from governments. Sadly, after more than half a decade of decline, global coal demand is forecast to grow by 4.5% this year.

Within many industrial processes like those used to make cement, steel and other industrial materials, there simply isn’t a viable alternative to fossil fuels yet, allowing them to constitute one-fifth of all emissions.

How does it work?
Luckily, there’s an American company working to become that cost-effective, renewable energy alternative to kickstart the transition away from fossil fuels for good. 

Heliogen has developed a concentrated solar capture solution, which uses advanced technology to redesign and optimise the solar field. Looking and working like rows of magnifying glasses, they’re precisely aligned to reflect sunlight towards a tower receiver with unprecedented accuracy. Through their magnifying structure and alignment, they can achieve record-breaking high temperatures, never seen in a commercial setting before. 

This enables them to convert the ultra-high temperature sunpower into cost-effective heat. It can be used as electricity, heat (HelioHeat) or even fuel (HelioFuel) down the line.

"Through their magnifying structure and alignment, they can achieve record-breaking high temperatures."

How does it improve life?
Heliogen’s solution is an industry first and proposes a critical development to how we harness sunlight. Their solution is designed to be competitive with fuel and commercially available, so they can offer companies reduced energy costs, carbon emissions and help in taking big steps in reaching their corporate sustainability goals.

What’s the impact to date or projected impact?
Launched in November 2019, Heliogen came out to prove they could concentrate solar energy to a record-breaking 1,000 degrees celsius. Reaching these levels enables Heliogen to offer heating solutions to many high-energy demanding industries such as cement, waste treatment and mining. Their HelioFuel, in development, could potentially sustain aeroplanes, heavy machinery and household heating. 

By the end of 2020, they were named one of the TIME’s Best Inventions of 2020 and have early on in their journey received backing from Bill Gates and Gates Ventures. In March 2021, they announced a collaboration to provide energy for Rio Tinto’s borates mine in California.