Renewable energy technology company Heliogen has raised $108 million in funding across two rounds — a first round that raised $25 million, followed by $83 million in what was described as an oversubscribed round. The new tranche of investors included steel and mining company ArcelorMittal, venture capital firm Prime Movers Lab, Canadian venture capital fund Ocgrow Ventures, Edison International, A.T. Gekko and more.
Heliogen has made headlines in the past for two main reasons. The first reason is that the company has Bill Gates as an early and vocal investor. The second, and arguably much more important reason, is that Heliogen has developed an innovative new method for capturing and converting sunlight into an ultra-high temperature heat that can exceed 1,000° Celsius. Named the Sunlight Refinery, it consists of an array of mirrors, controlled using advanced computer vision software, that are used to reflect sunlight to a single target with extreme accuracy. We gave a detailed rundown of Heliogen’s technology back in 2019, including highlighting its drawbacks.
The extremely high temperatures generated by the Sunlight Refinery system were previously only possible by using fossil fuel-powered tech. This means that industrial processes that require these high temperatures, such as mining and cement and steel production, can now effectively be carried out in a carbon neutral way. Given how large the carbon footprint currently is for cement production and for the mining industry, any technology that can help it to operate in a carbon neutral manner is a boon.
In a sign that the mining industry is keen to adopt the tech, mining giant Rio Tinto announced in March 2021 that it has established a Memorandum of Understanding with Heliogen. The memorandum details the terms under which Heliogen will deploy its technology at Rio Tinto’s borates mine in Boron, California. This pilot scheme will see Rio Tinto use Heliogen’s tech to power the mine’s industrial processes and greatly reduce the carbon emissions at the site.
The financing raised by the round will be used to accelerate the global deployment of the Sunlight Arrays and to keep making improvements to the systems efficiency. It will also be used for other pilot schemes like the one being conducted with Rio Tinto.
In a statement, Heliogen CEO and founder Bill Gross said: “This infusion of new support for Heliogen comes at a time when the paradigm shift toward clean energy is even further accelerated by the new realities the world is facing. We’re being granted the resources to do more projects that address the most carbon-intensive human activities and work toward our goals of lowering the price and emissions of energy for everyone on the planet. We thank all of our investors for enabling us to pursue our mission and offer the world technology that will allow it to achieve a post-carbon economy.”