Pasadena-based solar thermal energy company Heliogen Inc. on Oct. 24 announced that it is to receive a $4.1 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office to accelerate the large-scale development and deployment of its technology.
Heliogen has been developing technology to harness the sun’s energy to heat industrial materials used in manufacturing processes, providing an alternative to carbon-based fuels. Specifically, Heliogen’s apparatus starts with an array of mirrors that align to track the sun, then concentrate the solar energy to a nearby thermal tower, where it’s used to heat industrial materials.
For this U.S. Department of Energy grant, the concentrated solar energy produced by Heliogen is to be used to heat limestone to nearly 1,750 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough for the limestone to be used to make cement. The goal is to develop and deploy a viable alternative to carbon-based methods of producing cement.
According to the announcement, energy-intensive cement production contributes approximately 7% of global carbon dioxide emissions, while more than 80% of the energy used in cement production is consumed by calcination.
While it won’t make cement production entirely free of carbon dioxide emissions, Heliogen’s technology aims to eliminate “the majority” of carbon emissions from the cement-making process, the announcement said.
“We are very pleased to have been selected for this award, which will accelerate our R&D efforts and enable us to further demonstrate the impact of Heliogen’s (concentrating solar power) technology,” Paul Gauche, executive vice president for engineering at Heliogen, said in the announcement.
“This project is an important step in our mission to enable the decarbonization of heavy industries like cement production, essential to meeting global greenhouse gas emissions targets,” Gauche continued.
Heliogen is collaborating on the project with the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, the University of Michigan, Raleigh, North Carolina-based Martin Marietta Materials Inc., and Lynchburg, Virginia-based CTP Advanced Composites.
News of the announcement on Oct. 24 did nothing to stop the recent slide in Heliogen’s share price. After an initial spike when Heliogen went public on Dec. 31 that saw the share price peak at $16, the stock quickly settled into a trading range of $3 to $6 a share, then sank into a $2 to $3 trading range during the overall market rout this past summer.