Woodside Energy has granted renewable energy technology company (and Bill-Gates backed) Heliogen with a Limited Notice to Proceed (LNTP) to begin procurement of key equipment for a 5-megawatt commercial scale solar demonstration facility in California.

This facility, owned by Woodside Energy – a wholly owned subsidiary of Woodside, will use Heliogen’s AI-enabled concentrated solar technology to reduce carbon emissions and play an important role in the development of Woodside’s future energy business.

Today’s move follows a joint six-month feasibility study by Woodside and Heliogen and a front-end engineering design (FEED) contract that began in early 2021.

Woodside solar strategy

A Full Notice to Proceed and construction is earmarked to kick off in 2022.

Heliogen’s breakthrough technology is a modular, turnkey, AI-enabled concentrated solar energy system aiming to deliver clean energy with nearly 24/7 availability.

The facility is set to use advanced computer vision software that aligns an array of mirrors to reflect sunlight to a single target on 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.

Potential for remote power generation opportunities in Australia

Both companies have also indicated their intent to jointly market Heliogen’s technology in the US and Australia.

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.

“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,” Woodside CEO Meg O’Neill said.

“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.”

Heliogen CEO and founder Bill Gross said the company’s AI-enabled concentrated solar tech has the potential to transform heavy industry by turning sunlight into a zer-carbon source of heat, power and hydrogen that is “nearly always available.”

“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.”