Heliogen's 'Sunlight Refinery' Captures Carbon-Free Thermal Energy

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

Heliogen's Sunlight Refinery

Serial entrepreneur and Heliogen CEO Bill Gross calls it the Sunlight Refinery. In the fall of 2019, the Pasadena startup unveiled a Lancaster facility designed to capture carbon-free thermal energy at over 1,000 degrees Celsius using a cluster of mirrors.

Gross wants the system to power heavy industries like cement and steel processing and replace fossil fuels with entirely renewable energy.


On Tuesday, the company got a boost. It announced a $108 million investment from giants including the mining company ArcelorMittal and Edison International to deploy the system around the world.

"This infusion of new support for Heliogen comes at a time when the paradigm shift toward clean energy is even further accelerated by the new realities the world is facing," Gross said in a statement.

The founder nurtured the startup in his own Idealab incubator, also based in Pasadena, which has so far birthed some 150 companies tackling carbon emissions and global warming.

"We are trashing the Earth," Gross said to a crowd at last year's Upfront Summit. "The world is completely ready [for clean energy]. I am very passionate about making this a reality in my lifetime."

The lofty raise includes two separate funding rounds: a $25 million round followed by an oversubscribed $83 million boost that pulled in the new backers. Add those to Heliogen's previous investors: Bill Gates, Patrick Soon-Shiong, Nant Capital and others.

It comes three months after the company announced it would launch the AI-powered system at Rio Tinto's borates mine in Boron, California. Once set up, the system will power the mine by creating and storing carbon-free energy from solar heat — a move that would drop carbon emissions at the site "significantly," according to the company.

The company will sink the money into deploying the systems first in the U.S. before "other regions with strong solar resources."

"We're being granted the resources to do more projects that address the most carbon-intensive human activities and work toward our goals of lowering the price and emissions of energy for everyone on the planet," Gross said in a statement.

The goal, he continued, is a "post-carbon economy."

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ADHD and Dyslexia Often Aren't Caught Until It's Too Late. Santa Monica-Based Polygon Wants to Change That.

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

ADHD and Dyslexia Often Aren't Caught Until It's Too Late. Santa Monica-Based Polygon Wants to Change That.
Courtesy of Polygon

Here’s how Jack Rolo describes his childhood: He was good at chess, and bad at spelling. He was good at math, and bad at reading. Rolo went on to study physics at Durham University in his native England—and despite often struggling in his courses, it wasn’t until after he graduated that he was diagnosed with dyslexia, a common language processing disorder that affects reading.

Rolo’s experiences informed his founding of Polygon, a Santa Monica-based diagnostics startup that emerged from stealth on Friday with $4.2 million in funding, and the goal of better diagnosing dyslexia, ADHD and other learning-related disabilities. The funding includes a $3.6 million seed round led by Spark Capital, as well as $600,000 in pre-seed funding led by Pear VC.

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Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

Ian Siegel, ZipRecruiter
Image courtesy of ZipRecruiter

On this episode of Office Hours, host Spencer Rascoff talked with ZipRecruiter CEO and founder Ian Siegel about how he built his company, the lessons he's learned along the way and how he's seen the pandemic drastically reshape the job market—probably for good.

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