Heliogen, California offers an innovative, sustainable energy solution to beat cheap fossil fuel and rising oil prices

Karen Madej

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With climate change droughts in California affecting hydroelectricity production, what better time could there be to invest in solar power?

Fossil fuels have polluted the atmosphere for long enough. The time has come to consider sustainable options.

"To power civilization, beating the price of fossil fuels is the only thing that matters. Otherwise, people will keep burning fossil fuels because they are cheaper." Bill Gross.

Plus, with oil prices above $75 per barrel for the first time since 2018, folks will seriously consider E.V.s (electric vehicles). Current average gas prices are up almost a dollar on last year.

The cheap new Chinese and Indian coal imports mean civilization will need to get smarter. The cost to the environment makes cheap coal a false economy.

Since 2000 the U.S. coal production and consumption have halved. Last year saw production drop further because many businesses closed.

What do higher oil prices mean to us?

When you think about oil, you might think gasoline/diesel/fuel for your vehicle and jet fuel. Many other industries use oil refined into petroleum. In past years, it provided the primary energy source for U.S. consumption. It heats buildings and produces electricity. And it's also used in its raw state as a material to make plastic products, detergents, paints, drugs, and fertilizers. These items make up a few of the hundreds made every year.

Soaring oil prices reduce our buying power. Something I'm all for because I question whether we need all the stuff we buy. Unless our income rises or we use credit, we will have to reduce our spending to avoid debt.

Another part of the oil price rise parcel includes tight capacity, meaning higher prices could go a lot higher than they already have.

During the lockdowns, many of us deprived ourselves of shopping for some big-ticket items, such as buying a new car, because of travel bans. We also didn't need to buy gas for the vehicles gathering dust on the driveway.

Oil drilling companies reduced their production in 2020. Some sat on their excesses.

This year, in a global reopening, we're finding higher oil prices because demand outweighs what's available, especially in the oil business.

OPEC decides what approach to take but haven't made up their minds yet. Energy expert Dan Dicker, the founder of The Energy Word webinar, predicts OPEC+ will move to increase oil production, however not so high it causes prices to fall.

Production reduced or stopped last year for many goods. See chips, lumber etc. So far this year, the national price index including food and energy Personal Consumption Expenditure Percent change from month one year ago has risen from 1.4 in January to 3.9 in May.

In Why rising oil prices matter — and what comes next, Sam Ro quotes Rystad Energy oil markets analyst Louise Dickson:

"Maintaining price stability at high levels, while at the same time increasing its output, could be in the best interest of OPEC+."

U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts a rise in oil production in 2021 as the States return to some form of everyday life.

Current sustainable energy options

We've all seen fields growing solar panels as we whizzed past them on trains or urban eco-warriors' homes sporting the latest in energy production/savings and their own keeping energy costs down.

You've read about Musk's giant-sized batteries to store natural energy and supply the Texan National Grid, right? He does home-sized energy packs too, but that's another story.

Heliogen to save future civilization

Bill Gross and his Sunlight Refinery company, Heliogen, Pasadena, CA announced in a press release on July 7, 2021: Athena Technology Acquisition Corp. Announces Business Combination with Heliogen, Inc., a Leading Provider of AI-Enabled Concentrated Solar Energy; Combined Company Expected to Be Listed on New York Stock Exchange.

In the video below, the entertaining presenter takes us through how heliostats can save the world. If you haven't got time to watch for 9 minutes, I've summarised it for you.

Heliogen scientists and engineers combined their skills to invent structures that channel electronics through to octagonal mirrors. In short, sunlight, mirrors, and rocks will power the world. Simple right?

The first stage of the desert mirrors showed the ability of the electronics to auto-adjust the mirrors by minuscule fractions to capture the optimum amount of sunlight. The software can command the heliostat hardware. It's easier to make software precise than hardware. Which means:

"Higher performance levels and a much lower cost." Steve Schell CTO and Chief engineer, Heliogen

The rocks stay hot for up to a week, inside insulated containers, like hot liquids in a Thermos flask. Thus storing energy in the same way batteries do. And allowing the use of the stored energy 24 hours a day. Bill Gross plans for energy from hot sunny locations to be processed into green hydrogen and transported worldwide via pipelines and ships to areas where the sun is less prolific.

The test phase worked so well the team plan to move forward to the next one. Heliogen will obtain vast flat hot areas of land, desert areas, used for nothing else, in the southwest of the United States, including California.

The company will first "farm the land" with automated tractors to prepare it for planting 1,000 towers in concrete to keep them steady. By the end of this decade, there will be 1,000 towers each in Australia, the Middle East, and North Africa.

I’m pleased to have been an early backer of Bill Gross’s novel solar concentration technology. Its capacity to achieve the high temperatures required for these processes is a promising development in the quest to one day replace fossil fuel. — Bill Gates

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Karen Madej is a writer and editor for several publications on various platforms. She enjoys writing about politics and climate change. Her goal is to help feed as many homeless people as possible and campaign for Universal Basic Income at every opportunity, while also giving the UK government a hard time through petitions.

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