Concentrated solar power manufacturing facility planned for California

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AI-enabled concentrated solar energy provider Heliogen announced it commenced site preparation and setup at its first full-scale manufacturing facility in Long Beach, California.

The site will include assembly lines, a test facility, and a development center for heliostats and other related components in its concentrated solar power (CSP) system. The company plans for expects production to begin in the third quarter of 2022.

The facility will span 90,000 sq. feet and host roughly 250 long-term Long Beach jobs.
Image: Heliogen

Heliogen leverages AI to direct its heliostats to generate higher temperatures than possible with traditional CSP, said the company. CSP creates heat, steam, and electricity from concentrated sunlight. Heliogen’s collection tower is capable of achieving temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees Celsius. The available stored heat can reduce intermittency of renewable energy generation.

Heliostats from the Long Beach facility are expected to be used in Heliogen’s first planned commercial project in California. The facility will span 90,000 square feet and is expected to host 250 full-time local jobs by 2025.

“Our ability to manufacture Heliogen heliostats in the facility enables a significant cost advantage compared to earlier heliostat production, which was done in the construction field under less controlled conditions. Our modular plant design, together with our patented software control system, supports our mission to cost-effectively deliver near 24/7 carbon-free energy in the form of heat, power, or green hydrogen fuel at scale – for the first time in history,” said Bill Gross, Heliogen CEO.

Andy Lambert formerly of SpaceX and BMW, will run the plant as chief production and supply chain officer. He brings experience building large-scale automated production lines for outdoor products with high lifecycles and strong reliability. “With some of the country’s best and brightest talent, key suppliers, and access to an expansive infrastructure and logistics network, Heliogen is confident that Long Beach will emerge as a hub for green energy manufacturing solutions,” he said.

The Heliogen automated heliostat installation robot.

Image: Heliogen

The technology has several use cases, especially in replacing fossil fuels in industrial processes. Last November, Heliogen partnered with Bloom Energy to demonstrate the use of its CSP in the development of hydrogen fuel. The high temperatures provided by the CSP allowed Bloom to make hydrogen 45% more efficiently than low-temperature methods, said the company. Electricity dictates nearly 80% of the cost of hydrogen from electrolysis, and the CSP-backed method dramatically reduces the need for electricity, using heat to aid operations.

In December, Heliogen announced the roll-out of AI-backed robots to deploy, position, and clean its heliostats. The ICARUS AI system uses GPS, ultrasonic rangefinders, and light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors to operate fully autonomously. ICARUS is expected to be deployed across Heliogen’s facilities by 2023.

This January, the company netted $188 million in cash in a business combination with Athena Technology Acquisition Corp. and was added to the New York Stock Exchange.

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