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Woodside backs concentrated solar startup ahead of Australian tech push

https://www.pv-magazine-australia.com/2022/03/30/woodside-backs-concentrated-solar-startup-ahead-of-australian-tech-push/

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Australian oil and gas company Woodside has today announced it will officially move forward with US startup Heliogen, acquiring a stake in the company and financially supporting the construction of its 5MW artificial intelligence-enabled concentrated solar thermal demonstration plant in Mojave, California.

The two companies have also signed an agreement to jointly move Heliogen’s technology into Australia, hinting at the possibility of deploying at Woodside sites.

Heliogen – bringing back CSP

Founded by serial entrepreneur Bill Gross, also behind gravity storage company Energy Vault, Heliogen aims to revitalise concentrated solar thermal technology, promising to cut costs, water use, and plant footprints, making the technology viable for industrial applications not suited to solar PV. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was one of Heliogen’s early backers.

The Californian demonstration plant, which is now being backed by Woodside along with $52 million from the US government, will use advanced AI software to precisely aligns arrays of mirrors to reflect sunlight to a single target on the top of a solar tower, enabling storage in the form of high-temperature thermal energy.

Heliogen says the intense heat from its solar operations can be collected and processed to generate electricity even when the sun goes down.

Image: Heliogen

Heliogen claims its baseline system will provide industrial-grade heat capable of replacing fossil fuels in industrial processes, including the production of cement, steel, and petrochemicals. It will also enable power generation through the addition of thermal energy storage systems, a turbine for power generation, and electrolysers for green hydrogen production.

The project promises to deliver clean energy with nearly 24/7 availability.

Woodside agreement

Heliogen revealed today that Woodside would acquire a stake in the company, though the size of the stake and how much Woodside has invested has not been made public. Woodisde has, however, said it plans to invest $5 billion in new-energy products by 2030.

There is potential for Woodside to use Heliogen’s technology for its own operations in Australia. It could also use the tech to begin producing hydrogen for export. 

It seems the companies are planning to target Australian mining in their push into Australia, where such companies are rapidly trying to decarbonise using a suite of different technological solutions.

“Our agreements represent a pivotal next step in the commercialisation of Heliogen’s breakthrough concentrated solar technology and the decarbonisation of heavy industry,” Heliogen founder and CEO, Bill Gross, said.

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