Bill Gross served as Heliogen’s CEO until February 2023.
All my life I have dreamt of finding new, sustainable ways to meet our energy needs. Heliogen is the culmination of my life’s efforts: our goal is to replace and create fuel with pure, concentrated sunlight, allowing us to power the earth with the sun. I am so excited to see my dreams turn in to reality, and to share it with you.
When I witnessed gas rationing during the 1973 Energy Crisis, I began to really understand how important it was to power our planet renewably. So, at 15, I started a solar energy company called Solar Devices where I sold mail order kits and plans to build DIY solar devices in the back of Popular Science and Scientific American magazines. The sales from these kits helped to pay for my tuition at Caltech.
After graduating from Caltech, I became a serial entrepreneur and learned everything I could about starting and growing businesses. My passion for doing that led to me starting Idealab, now the longest-running technology incubator in the United States.
At Idealab, we look for big problems in the world, invent technological solutions, and then build companies to fix them. Over the last 23 years, we have started more than 150 companies in many areas like eCommerce, search, and robotics, but I am most proud of the companies we have built in the cleantech sector. That’s because I believe the single biggest problem in the world today is powering the planet renewably.
Today, 25% of the world’s energy is used as electricity. Fortunately, society has come up with renewable solutions to address this 25% in the form of wind and solar PV, where the cost and scalability concerns have been solved with low-cost PV panels and batteries.
However, 75% of worldwide energy is used as heat made by burning fuels like coal, diesel, and natural gas. A large part of that energy is high-temperature heat used for industrial processes such as making cement, steel, and glass, which are responsible for a significant amount of our carbon emissions. Until now, there have been no affordable zero-carbon technologies to address these emissions.
For the first time ever, Heliogen is offering a solution to this difficult problem. We have created a patented, ultra-high concentration solar system that can achieve temperatures up to 1500ºC. At these temperatures, we can provide a carbon-free source of power for industrial processes by replacing fuel with sunlight – taking a major step toward powering the planet renewably.
Heliogen’s ability to commercially replace fossil fuels with sunlight enables us to deliver on our mission (and my dream) of empowering a sustainable civilization—and even more importantly, will help us arrest and reverse climate change, making the world a better place for all, especially our children and grandchildren.
I am incredibly proud of our team at Heliogen. I invite you to share in our journey as we scale to make lasting, positive impacts the world over.