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This Bill Gates-Backed Solar Startup Just Had a Breakthrough That Could Cut the World’s Carbon Emissions by 20 Percent​

Los Angeles-based startup Heliogen, backed by Bill Gates and AOL founder Steve Case just announced that it has found a way to replace fossil fuels in industrial plants. Those plants produce more than 20 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, but Heliogen’s new concentrated solar technology may change that. It can create heat over 1,000 degrees Celsius, potentially replacing much of the fossil fuels these plants currently use.

You wouldn’t think that making something really, really, really hot would be the best way to fight climate change. But it is, because the production of steel, cement, and petrochemicals among others requires heating them to very high temperatures. Up till now, the only way to achieve this was with fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and oil.

For decades, the solar industry has been trying to produce the high temperatures needed for such manufacturing with concentrated solar–basically a very much larger version of the experiment you probably did as a child, starting a fire using sunlight and a magnifying glass. Concentrated solar companies have traditionally used hundreds of mirrors to reflect the sun’s beams onto a single spot.

It requires a great deal of precision and engineering skill to determine the precise angle of each mirror in order to point the beam at exactly the right spot, and then to keep changing the mirror’s position as the sun moves across the sky. Despite its best efforts, the concentrated solar industry was never able to create temperatures higher than 600 degrees Celsius, which is certainly very hot, but not hot enough for things like steel or cement manufacture.

Heliogen’s breakthrough is that, rather than trying to predict precisely where the sun’s beams will land, it uses cameras to observe where sunbeams are going and make minute adjustments several times per second in order to keep the mirrors pointed in precisely the right direction.

Using this approach, Heliogen says it’s been able to achieve temperatures of more than 1,000 Celsius. And that was on its first try. The company believes it can produce temperatures above 1,500 Celsius–enough to split water molecules and produce hydrogen fuel. That could solve hydrogen fuel’s biggest problem, which is that the energy needed to produce it negates any environmental gains from using it.

Cement alone contributes 8 percent of greenhouse gases

“I don’t know how many people will understand how significant breaking 1,000 C is,” Heliogen founder Bill Gross told GeekWire. Gross is a serial entrepreneur who also founded the tech incubator Idealab. [Disclosure: I am also a GeekWire contributor.] Here’s why Gross said getting above 1,000 using solar is such a big deal: “There’s all these things that happen above 1,000 C. Cement is made above 1,000 C. Steel is made above 1,000 C.

Hydrogen is made above 1,000 C.” But, he added, even if the lay person isn’t particularly excited by what Heliogen has achieved, “In the industry, it’s going to be really, really spectacular.” He added that cement production alone accounts for 8 percent of global CO2 emissions so a switch to concentrated solar in that industry alone would have a huge impact.

Gross said he was inspired to start Heliogen after attending Bill Gates’ 2010 TEDx talk in Long Beach, California, “Innovating to zero!” In the talk, Gates said that if he could be granted a single wish for the next 50 years, it would be for someone to invent a technology that would lower the cost of energy and eliminate CO2 emissions at the same time. Afterward, Gross went up to Gates and expressed his interest in working on such a technology.

Gates invited Gross to Seattle for a brainstorming session during which Gates and Gross bounced around ideas with other Gates Foundation leaders. “We talked about all the different ways that this could happen, and that was the beginning of thinking through the different technical challenges and ways to pull this off,” Gross said. “And he’s just been fantastic. Of course he’s going around the world telling everybody about this.”

Heliogen’s technological breakthrough depends in part on the growing availability and affordability of GPU, or graphic processing units, something that gamers need to play today’s graphically intense games. So if Heliogen succeeds in its mission to replace fossil fuels in high-heat manufacturing and eliminate a signficant portion of carbon emissions? You may have kids playing Fortnite to thank.

By Minda ZetlinCo-author, The Geek Gap

Source: This Bill Gates-Backed Solar Startup Just Had a Breakthrough That Could Cut the World’s Carbon Emissions by 20 Percent​

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… , With Momentum Toward Commercial Hydrogen Fuel Creation Heliogen – Replacing Fuels with Sunlight https://www.businesswire.com/news/hom…

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Huge Battery Investments Drop Energy-Storage Costs Faster Than Expected, Threatening Natural Gas

The global energy transition is happening faster than the models predicted, according to a report released today by the Rocky Mountain Institute, thanks to massive investments in the advanced-battery technology ecosystem.

Previous and planned investments total $150 billion through 2023, RMI calculates—the equivalent of every person in the world chipping in $20. In the first half of 2019 alone, venture-capital firms contributed $1.4 billion to energy storage technology companies.

“These investments will push both Li-ion and new battery technologies across competitive thresholds for new applications more quickly than anticipated,” according to RMI. “This, in turn, will reduce the costs of decarbonization in key sectors and speed the global energy transition beyond the expectations of mainstream global energy models.”

Today In: Innovation

RMI’s “Breakthrough Batteries” report anticipates “self-reinforcing feedback loops” between public policy, manufacturing, research and development, and economies of scale. Those loops will drive battery performance higher while pushing costs as low as $87/kWh by 2025. (Bloomberg put the current cost at $187/kwh earlier this year.)

“These changes are already contributing to cancellations of planned natural-gas power generation,” states the report. “The need for these new natural-gas plants can be offset through clean-energy portfolios (CEPs) of energy storage, efficiency, renewable energy, and demand response.”

New natural-gas plants risk becoming stranded assets (unable to compete with renewables+storage before they’ve paid off their capital cost), while existing natural-gas plants cease to be competitive as soon as 2021, RMI predicts.

RMI analysts expect lithium-ion to remain the dominant battery technology through 2023, steadily improving in performance, but then they anticipate a suite of advanced battery technologies coming online to cater to specific uses:

Heavier transport will use solid-state batteries such as rechargeable zinc alkaline, Li-metal, and Li- sulfur. The electric grid will adopt low-cost and long-duration batteries such as zinc-based, flow, and high-temperature batteries. And when EVs become ubiquitous—raising the demand for fast charging—high-power batteries will proliferate.

Many of these alternative battery technologies will leap from the lab to the marketplace by 2030, the report predicts.

Some of these changes will be driven outside the U.S., specifically in countries like India, Indonesia and the Philippines that prefer smaller vehicles. Read More: Why The U.S. Will Lag Behind The Global Transition To Electric Vehicles.

RMI analyzed the four major energy-storage markets—China, the U.S., the European Union and India—and found two major trends that apply to each: 1) “Mobility markets are driving the demand and the cost declines,” and 2) “the nascent grid storage market is about to take off.”

China dominates the market for electric vehicles and solar photovoltaic technologies, thanks to early, large and consistent investment. The RMI report notes that China also has an advantage in upstream ore processing, critical materials and component manufacturing.

The report does not, however, explore what happens should China weaponize those advantages in the trade war, restricting or embargoing imports of critical materials to the U.S.

“An expanded trade war looms large over all industries and the entire global economy and is not in the interest of either the U.S. or China, and it is unproductive to speculate on the potential scope or outcomes of a battery or minerals-related action,” two of the report’s four authors, Charlie Bloch and James Newcomb, told me in an email.

“China is no doubt aware of the long-term economic opportunity associated with being a reliable manufacturer of batteries and the risk that escalating trade war actions by either side could damage the US-China economic relationship in this important area.”

They added that manufacturers, investors, start-ups, and government officials are taking steps to mitigate the potential impact of such a risk, such as continued development of low- and no-cobalt batteries chemistries.

For more about China’s hold on critical minerals, read 4 Reasons The Developed World Is In Big Trouble With Critical Minerals.

9 Worries That Keep The Natural-Gas Magnates Awake At Night

Forbes Jeff McMahon

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I’ve covered the energy and environment beat since 1985, when I discovered my college was discarding radioactive waste in a dumpster. That story ran in the Arizona Republic, and I have chased electrons and pollutants ever since, for dailies in Arizona and California, for alternative weeklies including New Times and Newcity, for online innovators such as The Weather Channel’s Forecast Earth project, The New York Times Company’s LifeWire syndicate, and True/Slant—the prototype for the new Forbes. I’ve wandered far afield—to cover the counterrevolutionary war in Nicaragua, the World Series Earthquake in San Francisco, the UN Climate Change Conferences in Copenhagen and Paris. I also teach journalism, argument and scientific writing at the University of Chicago. Email me here: jeffmcmahon.com/contact-jeff-mcmahon/

Source: Huge Battery Investments Drop Energy-Storage Costs Faster Than Expected, Threatening Natural Gas

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Which battery metal will offer the biggest return for investors? Watch as Chris Parry from Equity.Guru discusses with Mitchell Smith, President & CEO of Global Energy Metals Corporation (TSXV: GEMC), Larry Reaugh, CEO of American Manganese Inc. (TSXV: AMY) and A. Paul Gill, CEO of Lomiko Metals Inc. (TSXV: LMR). Join us at an upcoming event! http://www.cambridgehouse.com Stay Connected! http://www.cambridgehouse.com/ https://twitter.com/cambridge https://www.facebook.com/cambridgehou… Copyright © 2018 Cambridge House International Inc. All rights reserved.

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