This Bill Gates Backed Solar Tech Could Beat Price of Fossil Fuels, Cut Emissions
Heliogen, as the company is called, made itself known to the public with the announcement that it had developed a way to use artificial intelligence and mirrors to reflect enough sunlight to reach temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees Celsius, CNN Business reported. That's the temperature needed to make cement, glass and steel.
"We are rolling out technology that can beat the price of fossil fuels and also not make the CO2 emissions," Heliogen founder and CEO Bill Gross told CNN Business. "And that's really the holy grail."
The sort of heavy industry processes that Heliogen's invention could heat account for around 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, David Roberts explained in Vox. And, until now, there have not been many promising low-carbon solutions.
We’re developing the technology to transform sunlight into fuels. See how we’re doing it: https://t.co/91PLbKEwl3 https://t.co/vUxNrWCxrh— Heliogen (@Heliogen)1574177558.0
"Bill and the team have truly now harnessed the sun," backer, company board member and Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong told CNN Business. "The potential to humankind is enormous. ... The potential to business is unfathomable."
The new technology is a form of concentrating solar power (CSP), Roberts explained, when hundreds of mirrors are aligned in a field to direct sunlight at a steam turbine in a tower. The heat turns liquid to steam and powers the turbine, but the technology lost out to photovoltaic panels in the race for low-cost solar energy. But Heliogen's innovation could bring it back by relying on software to align the mirrors.
"What Gross and his team of scientists and engineers at Heliogen have developed, in a nutshell, is a way to use even more computing power to keep the mirrors even more precisely aligned, thus generating even more heat," Roberts wrote.
My new post: last month I wrote about the vexing dilemma of how to generate high-temperature heat for industrial pr… https://t.co/9GdbmlHcZZ— David Roberts (@David Roberts)1574196785.0
While traditional CSP generates heat of up to around 560 degrees Celsius, Heliogen's invention nearly doubles that. And the company thinks it can even reach 1,500 degrees Celsius.
That would be hot enough to split hydrogen atoms from water to create a fossil-fuel free gas, The Guardian explained.
Gross said the technology could therefore green both industry and transport, sectors which make up 75 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
However, even heat of a little more than 1,000 degrees is a big deal. Cement is the world's third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, after oil and coal, and its production threatens the Paris agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
"Today, industrial processes like those used to make cement, steel, and other materials are responsible for more than a fifth of all emissions," Gates said of the innovation he had backed, according to The Guardian. "These materials are everywhere in our lives but we don't have any proven breakthroughs that will give us affordable, zero-carbon versions of them. If we're going to get to zero carbon emissions overall, we have a lot of inventing to do."
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By Kate Whiting
Bernice Dapaah calls bamboo "a miracle plant," because it grows so fast and absorbs carbon. But it can also work wonders for children's education and women's employment – as she's discovered.
These are the world's most bicycle-friendly cities. Statista<p>"The reason we use bamboo to manufacture bicycles is because it's found abundantly in Ghana and this is not a material we're going to import," says Dapaah, one of the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders.</p><p>"It's a new innovation. There were no existing bamboo bike builders in our country, so we were the first people trying to see how best we could utilize the abundant bamboo in Ghana."</p>
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Supporting Students<p>Besides encouraging Ghanaians to swap vehicles for affordable bikes, Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative is helping students save time on walking to school so they have more time to learn.</p><p>Each time they sell a bike, they donate a bike to a schoolchild in a rural community, who might otherwise have to walk for hours to get to school.</p><p>Dapaah knows how transformative a shorter journey to school can be to academic performance. She grew up living with her <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb3joGYmx9A&feature=emb_logo" target="_blank">grandpa, a forester in a rural part of the country</a>.</p><p>"We had to walk three and a half hours every day before I could go to school. He later bought me a bike, so I finished senior high and wanted to go to university."</p><p>The experience inspired her to launch Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative with two other students at college.</p><p>"When we started this initiative, I looked back and said, when I was young, I had to walk miles before I could get to school, and sometimes if I was late, I was punished.</p><p>"Why don't we donate bikes for students to encourage them to study and so they can have enough time to be on books."</p><p>To date, they have sold more than 3,000 road, mountain and children's bikes – and Dapaah says they plan to donate <a href="https://www.entrepreneur.com/video/350343" target="_blank">10,000 bikes to schoolchildren over five years</a>.</p>
Empowering Women<p>The enterprise is also providing local jobs. It teaches young people to build bikes, particularly women and those in rural communities, where jobs can be scarce. More than 50% of people they have trained are women.</p><p>Dapaah says they want to boost the number of people they employ to 250 over the next five years and they are looking to partner with NGOs to build a childcare facility so mothers can continue to work.</p>
Reducing Emissions<p>By promoting a cycling culture in Ghana, Dapaah says they're also committed to reducing emissions in the transport sector and contributing to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.</p><p>"I love the idea of reusing bamboo to promote sustainable cycling. People want to go green, low-carbon, lean-energy efficient," she says.</p>
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