eSolar Announces $40 Million Investment from GE

eSolar

eSolar, an Idealab company based in Pasadena, CA that produces scalable solar thermal power plant technology, announced earlier this month that GE will invest up to $40 million in the company. In addition, Paul Browning, president and CEO of Thermal Products for GE Energy, will join eSolar's Board of Directors. eSolar was founded in 2007 and has received more than $185 million in financing from organizinations including NRG Energy, Oak Investment Partners, Google.org, ACME Group, and Quercus Trust.

An overview of eSolar's modular solar thermal technology is described in the following video:

In June, GE and eSolar announced a license agreement which will enable GE to incorporate eSolar technology into GE's recently announced Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (ISCC) power plants and standalone solar thermal power plants.

An ISCC power plant features a combined-cycle system including a gas turbine, steam turbine, generators and a heat recovery steam generator, as well as a field of mirrors that focus sunlight on a tower to produce high temperature steam. During the day, steam generated in the solar field is fed into the water-steam system of the combined-cycle plant, creating extra megawatts of electricity without using any additional natural gas. During the night or during periods of cloud cover, the power plant remains fully dispatchable using natural gas.

GE states that their ISCC power plants are capable of delivering fuel efficiencies in excess of 70 percent. “Adding eSolar’s high temperature tower technology to our combined cycle product offering allows us to offer an integrated solution with unparalleled efficiency, full dispatchability, and a market competitive cost of electricity,” said Browning. “It allows us to offer a power plant that creates more value for customers.”

He added, “Intermittent renewable energy has always worked in tandem with flexible natural gas through grid integration. As renewable uptake increases around the world, we recognize the need for combined cycle gas turbine technology that delivers both flexibility and world class efficiency. We believe that this combination of flexible and efficient gas with renewables can help meet near and long term global targets for climate change, cost and reliability. It is the future of power generation.

GE was granted exclusive worldwide rights to eSolar’s modular technology for ISCC, excluding China and India. Together the two companies are targeting Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the United States, and are working on a 530 MW project in Turkey with Turkish investor and power project developer MetCap Energy, which will feature 50 MW of eSolar concentrated solar thermal tower technology integrated with GE’s new FlexEfficiency 50 Combined Cycle Power Plant.

“Our partnership with GE moves our innovative technology to the next stage. Together, we are able to bring to market a power plant solution that drives down the cost of solar and meets the growing demand for renewable energy generation,” said John Van Scoter, President and CEO of eSolar. “Building on our proven technology, this investment will fund the development of next-generation, modular solutions that enhance the cost competitiveness of solar, such as molten salt storage technology. We welcome Mr. Browning to our board as a valuable asset in driving the strategic direction of the company during this time of rapid growth.”

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NRG Energy Invests Approximately $10 Million in eSolar and Will Develop Solar Thermal Power Plants Using eSolar Technology

Today NRG Energy announced that it signed an agreement with eSolar to develop solar thermal power plants with a total generation capacity of up to 500 megawatts (MW) at sites in California and the Southwest.  In addition, NRG will invest approximately $10 million for equity and associated development rights for three projects on sites in south central California and the Southwest US and a portfolio of power purchase agreements (PPAs) to develop, build, own and operate up to 11 eSolar modular solar generating units at these sites.

eSolar, an Idealab company based in Pasadena, California, produces modular, scalable solar thermal power plants that are designed to address the complex issues involved in large or utility-scale power projects.  The company is currently completing its first commercial demonstration concentrating solar power (CSP) plant in Southern California. The facility will be the first fully functioning solar thermal power tower plant built in the United States.

"This is NRG's first venture into solar power and it brings an exceptionally important component to the low- and no-carbon focus of our RepoweringNRG program," said Michael Liebelson, Chief Development Officer Low Carbon Technology for NRG Energy. "By coupling NRG's construction capabilities and regional operating expertise with eSolar's innovative CSP technology, we can advance NRG's renewable energy portfolio while helping to accelerate development of these important projects on a commercial scale."

"eSolar's breakthrough modular power plants use more software and less steel to allow solar energy to be competitive with fossil fuels for the first time ever," said Bill Gross, CEO of eSolar. "NRG Energy's extensive project skills and focus on advancing a diverse portfolio of energy generation technology will help accelerate the deployment of eSolar's CSP technology in locations across the US."

As previously reported by Green VC, eSolar received $130 million in funding from Idealab, Google.org, Oak Investment Partners, and other investors.

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eSolar Receives $130 Million in Funding

eSolar

eSolar, an Idealab company based in Pasadena, CA that produces scalable solar thermal power plants, announced on Monday that it closed $130 million in funding from Idealab, Google.org, Oak Investment Partners, and other investors for the construction and deployment of its pre-fabricated power plants.  In January eSolar received $10 million from Google.org.

"eSolar’s primary business goal is nothing short of making solar electricity for less than the price of coal, without subsidies," said Bill Gross, eSolar Chairman and Founder of Idealab. "This is not only attainable, but will truly change the world."

eSolar’s distributed solar thermal plants are designed to address the complex issues involved in large or utility-scale power projects and are able to achieve economies of scale at 33 MW.  The modular design of these plants have a number of benefits, including requiring minimal land and yielding a low environmental footprint.

"The eSolar™ power plant is based on mass manufactured components, and designed for rapid construction, uniform modularity, and unlimited scalability," said Asif Ansari, CEO of eSolar. "Rather than over-engineering the solution, eSolar’s smart scalable solar architecture targets what we see as the four key business obstacles facing the sector: price, scalability, rapid deployment, and grid impact."

eSolar has secured land rights in the southwest United States to support the production and transmission of over 1 GW of power. eSolar will have a fully operational power plant later this year in southern California.

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Google.org Announces Philanthropy Focus Areas; Includes Climate Change

On Thursday, January 17 Google.org announced the five focus areas for its philanthrophic efforts for the next five to ten years.  These focus areas include ones that address the challenge of climate change.  This announcement also contained information on more than $25 million in new grants and investments that Google.org is making in these areas, including $10 million to eSolar, a company that specializes in solar thermal power.

Listed below are the five areas, along with a brief overview as described in the Google.org announcement, as well as selected overview videos:

Focus Area #1 – Accelerate the Commercialization of Plug-In Vehicles (RechargeIT)
RechargeIT is a Google.org initiative that aims to reduce CO2 emissions, cut oil use and stabilize the electrical grid by accelerating the adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and vehicle-to-grid technology. Google.org launched a $10 million request for investment proposals this Fall, and will invest amounts ranging from $500,000 to $2 million in selected for-profit companies whose innovative approach, team and technologieseSolar will enable widespread commercialization of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, electric vehicles and/or vehicle-to-grid solutions.

Focus Area #2 – Develop Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal (RE<C)
This cross-Google collaboration has set a goal of producing one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that is cheaper than coal, within years not decades. The initiative, known as RE<C, was launched in November 2007 and will focus initially on advanced solar thermal power, wind power technologies, enhanced geothermal systems and other potential breakthrough technologies.

[Editor’s note: The initial RE<C announcement was covered by Green VC in the post Google Invests in Renewable Energy.]

Focus Area #3 – Predict and Prevent
Google.org supports efforts to empower communities to predict and prevent events before they become local, regional, or global crises, by identifying "hot spots" and enabling a rapid response. Rapid ecological and social changes are increasing the risk of emerging threats, from infectious diseases to drought and other environmental disasters. Google.org is initially focused on Southeast Asia and tropical Africa. In Southeast Asia, a hot spot for SARS and potentially bird flu, Google.org is working with partners to strengthen early warning systems and build local capacities to prevent the next pandemic.

Focus Area #4 – Inform and Empower to Improve Public Services
Google.org works with partners to improve the flow of vital information to improve basic services for the poor in India and East Africa. In many countries in the developing world, essential public services are failing, especially for the poorest members of society. Google.org supports efforts to provide information to empower citizens and communities, providers, and policy makers to improve the delivery of essential public services such as education, health, water and sanitation.

Focus Area #5 – Fuel the Growth of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
Google.org supports efforts to lower transaction costs to invest in SMEs, create opportunities to access larger financial markets and make investments in this sector. SMEs are critical for inclusive economic growth and job creation in the developing world, but lack the capital and tools necessary to succeed. Many micro-enterprises and most large businesses have access to capital through microfinance institutions, banks and capital markets, but SMEs remain extraordinarily underserved, creating a "missing middle." Google.org wants to help increase the flow of capital to "the missing middle" by tackling some of the root causes that prevent these firms from becoming profitable investment opportunities

A replay of a Google.org call discussing yesterday’s announcement is available through midnight Thursday, January 24th, 2008 by calling 888-203-1112 (US) or 719-457-0820 (outside the US). The confirmation code for the replay is 4699562.  For additional information on Google.org: