December 9, 2021
Heliogen, which provides AI-enabled concentrated solar power, has announced a new breakthrough in the production of low-cost renewable energy. In field tests at Heliogen’s Lancaster, Calif., facility, the company demonstrated an autonomous field maintenance system. The Installation & Cleaning Autonomous Robot & Utility Station (ICARUS) is expected to reduce the time to deploy Heliogen’s concentrated solar facilities, as well as the costs associated with construction and ongoing maintenance.
The company’s solar facilities employ arrays of mirrored heliostats that require upkeep and cleaning to ensure peak optical performance and a high level of energy generation efficiency. At traditional solar plants, conventional manual cleaning methods can be expansive and labor intensive, and are usually completed once every few months. Heliogen said it designed the ICARUS system, which uses GPS, ultrasonic rangefinders and lidar sensors for a completely autonomous operation, while also collecting performance data to achieve operational and cost efficiency for the entire lifecycle of the mirror field. Heliogen said the ICARUS system can autonomously clean a field of mirrors on a predetermined schedule, keeping the system at peak performance with minimal human intervention required.
In addition, ICARUS can handle structured and unstructured environments, maneuvering through different topographies. The system includes built-in obstacle detection and avoidance, so anything that appears in its path – people, animal or debris – can be recognized and automatically avoided, the company said.
“Heliogen has pioneered the unique combination of hardware and software to drive up performance and drive down the costs of its concentrated solar systems,” said Bill Gross, founder and CEO of Heliogen. “By taking advantage of huge boosts in processing power due to the advances of Moore’s Law, AI, computation and computer vision, Heliogen aims to make solar energy more affordable than ever before. This first technical demonstration of ICARUS is a leap forward in realizing Heliogen’s mission to replace fossil fuels with concentrated sunlight – cost-effectively and at scale.”
The concentrated solar energy system uses AI to precisely align its mirrors with accuracy, delivering carbon-free energy in the form of heat, power, or green hydrogen fuel, Heliogen said. The company said ICARUS is expected to deployed across Heliogen’s full-scale facilities by 2023.
For more information on the system, visit the Heliogen website here.