Woodside is working with Bill Gates-backed Heliogen on a “groundbreaking” solar technology project

Australia’s Woodside Petroleum is partnering with Pasadena-based technology company Heliogen to build a commercial-scale demonstration facility in California using its “breakthrough” solar technology.

Woodside confirmed Monday that it has given Heliogen a limited deadline to begin sourcing key equipment for the 5-megawatt demonstration facility that will use Heliogen’s concentrated solar technology with artificial intelligence.

Woodside describes Heliogen’s technology as a modular, turnkey, AI-enabled concentrated solar energy system that aims to deliver clean energy with near 24/7 availability.

The demonstration facility will use advanced computer vision software that precisely orients a series of mirrors to reflect sunlight onto a single target on the top of a solar tower, allowing for low cost storage in the form of high temperature thermal energy.

Heliogen claims its base system will deliver industrial-grade heat capable of replacing fossil fuels in industrial processes like making cement, steel, and petrochemicals, while generating electricity through the addition of a supercritical CO2 turbine and manufacturing of green hydrogen in combination with an electrolyser.

Bill Gross, CEO and founder of Heliogen, said the company’s technology has the potential to transform heavy industry by “converting sunlight into a carbon-free source of heat, electricity and hydrogen that is almost always available.”

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“Although the cost of large-scale solar systems is falling, conventional solar technologies are not yet competitive with fossil fuels due to their temporary availability in most energy markets,” he added.

“Heliogen’s technology aims to close this gap through the use of AI, software and heat storage. With the energy sector ripe for green hydrogen fuel applications and decarbonization strategies, Woodside is an ideal partner for our breakthrough solar technology that will support the operating characteristics of heavy industry. “

Woodside’s decision to grant a temporary extension period followed a six-month feasibility study by the two companies and a front-end engineering and design contract that began earlier this year.

Woodside said Monday that it expects a full announcement to proceed and start construction on the demonstration facility next year.

Marketing technology

The two companies also intend to jointly commercialize Heliogen’s technology in the United States and Australia. The joint marketing agreement stipulates that the two will consider a roadmap for working together on other potential renewable energy projects.

The agreements discussed include a framework for developing, optimizing and selling modularized and competitive integrated renewable energy and hydrogen solutions on an industrial scale in the US, as well as marketing rights for Woodside in Australia.

Woodside will also seek potential uses of the technology to meet projected electricity needs at its international locations as part of its decarbonization strategy as it seeks net zero emissions by 2050.

“Heliogen’s innovative technology could play an important role in the development of Woodside’s carbon-free hydrogen and ammonia business, which would rely on access to abundant and reliable renewable energy,” said Meg O’Neill, Woodside CEO.

“We are also pleased to have the commercial rights to Heliogen’s technology in Australia, where our abundant solar energy resources support the application of this technology in remote power generation and other industrial processes.”

Road to net zero: CEO Meg O’Neill says Heliogen’s technology could help support Woodside’s decarbonization plans Photo: WOODSIDE

Heliogen, supported by Bill Gates and Patrick Soon-Shiong as a billionaire, recently merged with the special purpose vehicle Athena Technology Acquisition, with the new company having a pro forma enterprise value of $ 2 billion.

Earlier this year, Heliogen also signed a letter of intent with international mining giant Rio Tinto to use its technology to explore Rio’s borate mine in Boron, California.

According to Rio, the use of Heliogen technology to control the industrial processes in the mine has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions at the Boron site by around 7%, which corresponds to the distance of more than 5,000 cars from the road.

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