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Solar Breakthrough Could Disrupt Building Product Manufacturing
November 21, 2019 - Contact FacilitiesNet Editorial Staff »
Imagine how much cheaper concrete, glass, steel and other building elements would be if the energy required to produce them was free. What’s more, imagine how much better for the environment it would be if the intense energy requirements for these building materials came from renewable sources rather than fossil fuels.
One new company — a “secret” start-up backed by Bill Gates called Heliogen — thinks it has made a breakthrough in these regards. The company has invented an improved method of concentrated solar energy that could supply heat for manufacturing and other industrial processes, according to CNN.
The breakthrough involves using concentrated solar — that is, using mirrors to focus solar energy to a single spot — to achieve high temperatures not previously possible. The company uses artificial intelligence to move the mirrors to the perfect locations and at the perfect angles to focus solar energy to a single spot. This allows the system to produce temperatures hot enough to make steel and concrete.
Concentrated solar isn’t new, but it had only been able to produce temperature up to 1,049 degrees F, not hot enough for manufacturing, so renewable energy technology hadn’t yet disrupted these industries. This new technology can produce temperatures up to 1,832 degrees F, according to Engadget, hot enough for the manufacturing process of a variety of building materials.
The company is also working on new energy storage solutions to store the heat created so that manufacturing could continue when the sun isn’t shining.
This post was submitted by Greg Zimmerman, executive editor, Building Operating Management and FacilitiesNet.com. Read his cover story about Chris Walinski and his mission to make open offices flexible and productive.
FM's Next Gen Podcast, Episode 5: Charles M. Thomas, facilities project manager II, support operations, corporate real estate division, SRI International.