Australian liquefied natural gas (LNG) developer Woodside (ASX:WPL) is collaborating with US-based Heliogen, a provider of AI-enabled concentrated solar energy, to build a 5 MW commercial-scale demonstration facility in California.
Woodside has given Heliogen instructions to start buying key equipment for the solar plant, that will use Heliogen’s AI-enabled concentrated solar technology. The issuance of a limited notice to proceed follows a joint six-month feasibility study by the pair and front-end engineering and design (FEED) started earlier this year, Woodside said today.
The pair expect full notice to proceed and construction to start in 2022.
Heliogen’s breakthrough technology is a modular, turnkey, AI-enabled concentrated solar energy system that aims to deliver clean energy with nearly 24/7 availability. The facility will utilise advanced computer vision software that precisely aligns an array of mirrors to reflect sunlight to a single target on the top of a solar tower, thereby enabling low-cost storage in the form of high-temperature thermal energy. Customers can opt to build on the baseline system that provides industrial-grade heat by adding thermal energy storage systems, a turbine for power generation, and electrolysers for green hydrogen production.
The two companies also announced their intent to jointly market Heliogen’s technology in the US and Australia. Under the proposed joint marketing arrangement, the companies will consider establishing a roadmap to collaborate on additional potential renewable energy projects, including replicating and scaling Heliogen’s modular, AI-enabled concentrated solar facility to support Woodside’s forecasted power requirements at its international locations, noting Woodside’s commitments to reduce net emissions from its existing and future businesses. The arrangements under discussion include a framework to design, optimise and sell modularised industrial-scale and cost-competitive integrated renewable energy and hydrogen solutions in the US and marketing rights for Woodside in Australia.
Woodside CEO Meg O’Neill said the new collaboration with Heliogen demonstrated Woodside’s focus on developing innovative technologies to meet customer requirements for low-cost, lower-carbon energy.
“This is a significant step toward the development of our first facility with Heliogen, which we hope will be just the start of our ongoing collaboration,” said O’Neill.
“Heliogen’s innovative technology could play a key supporting role in development of Woodside’s zero-carbon hydrogen and ammonia business, which would rely on access to abundant and reliable renewable power,” she added.
“We are also excited about the marketing rights for Heliogen’s technology in Australia, where our abundant solar energy resources support application of this technology in remote power generation and other industrial processes,” she said.
“Heliogen’s AI-enabled concentrated solar technology has the potential to transform heavy industry by turning sunlight into a zero-carbon source of heat, power and hydrogen that is nearly always available,” said Heliogen CEO and founder, Bill Gross.
“Although costs of large-scale solar are falling, conventional solar technologies are not yet cost-competitive with fossil fuels in most energy markets due to their intermittent availability. Heliogen’s technology aims to close this gap through the use of AI, software and thermal storage. As the energy sector is ripe for applications of green hydrogen fuels and decarbonisation strategies, Woodside is an ideal collaborator for our breakthrough solar technology, which will support the operational characteristics of heavy industry. We are excited to reach this important milestone in our relationship with Woodside and look forward to helping them to efficiently achieve their sustainability targets,” he said.
Among the investors in Heliogen is Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) founder Bill Gates.