After nearly nine years of monitoring the mainstream and more scientific news for evidence that harnessing the sun is one of our highest potential solutions to climate change, and considering all the noise that comes from climate change skeptics and deniers, it is easy to lose track of whether solar has what it takes. Laura Mallonee shares this brief in Wired:
Software-driven systems can produce enough searing heat to power manufacturing processes that now gorge on fossil fuels.
Plenty of days, temperatures in California’s Mojave Desert climb above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. A measly figure. These 400 silvered glass panels, tucked into the western edge of that hot, hot desert, are there to generate heat 15 times that amount. And, ideally, to help cool the planet too.
Assembled by the Pasadena-based company Heliogen, each 16-square-foot freckle, a heliostat, reflects a kilowatt of sunlight to the top of a five-story tower, where it’s absorbed by a silicon carbide receiver. As the little black plate glows white, it exceeds 1,800 degrees. That’s hot enough to begin manufacturing cement and other industrial products—processes that typically rely on burning fossil fuels—and to potentially cut up to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Heliogen CEO Bill Gross has dreamed of harnessing the sun since the 1973 energy crisis, when he sold DIY solar panels. Those sales helped put him through college. When oil prices plummeted, he took a detour to build software—you can thank him for inventing pay-per-click ads—before he founded Heliogen in 2013, with funding from Bill Gates. Last fall, the company fired up this first array. “It was a bit like watching a lunar landing,” Gross says…
Read the whole brief here.