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,, Oak Investment Partners, and other investors.

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Ausra Obtains $60.6 Million in Equity Financing


Ausra, a Palo Alto, California-based company that develops and deploys utility-scale solar thermal power technology, recently announced it secured $60.6 million in preferred equity financing. This financing was led by KERN Partners and included participation from Generation Investment Management, Starfish Ventures, and Ausra’s founding investors Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

"We are very pleased to have such prestigious investors join our team to assist Ausra in achieving its goals in the solar thermal energy market," said Bob Fishman, president, CEO and chairman of Ausra. "This round of financing will enable us to accelerate delivery of our technology to our customers."

"KERN Partners is excited to be investing in such a dynamic company that is poised to meet the growing demand for sustainable energy with its innovative and cost-competitive solar thermal technology," said Jim Nieuwenburg, general partner with KERN Partners.

Ausra said that it will use the funds from this financing for research and product development and commercial activities, including completing its 5 megawatt Kimberlina solar thermal power project near Bakersfield, California.  This will be the first power plant in North America to use Ausra’s core technology – the Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector (CLFR) solar collector and steam generation system. Ausra is also developing a 177-megawatt CLFR power plant for Pacific Gas and Electric Company in central California.

Some background on Ausra is available in the following video, which is an interview by Alternative Energy HQ of Dr. David Mills, Ausra’s Chief Scientific Officer and Founder.

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SolarReserve Receives $140 Million in Series B Financing


SolarReserve, a developer of utility scale renewable energy solar power plants, recently announced it has closed a $140 million Series B round of funding.  The financing was led by Sustainable Development Investments (SDI) (the renewable energy private equity group within Citi Alternative Investments) and Good Energies. Other investors included US Renewables Group (SolarReserve’s founding investor) along with PCG Clean Energy & Technology Fund (CETF), Nimes Capital, LLC and Credit Suisse.

"Our investment in SolarReserve is part of Citi’s continued commitment to address climate change," stated Citi’s R. Andrew de Pass, Managing Director and Head of SDI. "The technology backing by United Technologies Corp. and the ability of the system to store energy differentiates SolarReserve from other alternative technologies and has the ability to replace conventional fuel burning power plants."

"SolarReserve possesses the leading utility scale, solar thermal technology as well as a world class development team to bring this technology to the market," stated John Breckenridge, Managing Director for Good Energies. "This additional funding provides SolarReserve with the financial resources to aggressively pursue the expanding market for large scale solar energy projects. Good Energies is excited to bring SolarReserve financial support and access to our global renewable energy network."

SolarReserve said that it will use the funds to further its development of more than 5,000 megawatts (MW) of utility-scale power plants in locations across the globe, each ranging in size from 50MW to 300MW.  The company is developing power plants (what it calls "Solar Power Towers") that generate electricity from the sun’s heat.   The image below outlines the company’s technology and approach (click the image to download a larger version):

SolarReserve Technology

SolarReserve’s plants capture the sun’s thermal energy, store the energy in molten salt, and transform the heat into steam-driven turbines that generate electricity.  The molten salt is heated by concentrating the sun’s energy via thousands of mirrors onto a central receiver and, according to the company, is so efficient that the energy can be stored for use during times when direct sunlight is unavailable.  SolarReserve holds the exclusive worldwide license to molten salt power tower solar technology developed by the Rocketdyne division of Hamilton Sundstrand (a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp.).

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NanoLunch on June 26 to Focus on Solar Thermal Technology


"Solar Thermal Energy Technology" will be the topic of the June 26th NanoLunch. a weekly seminar and networking lunch program produced by the International Association of Nanotechnology.  The featured speaker will be Charlie Ricker (Senior Vice President, Marketing & Business Development, BrightSource Energy), who will discuss development and commercialization of solar thermal energy.  This program will also provide an overview of clean tech and nanotech training programs offered by the California Institute of Nanotechnology.

This program will take place from 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM at 1290 Parkmoor Avenue, San Jose, CA 95126.  The registration cost is free for IANANO members and $10 for non-IANANO members. Light lunch will be provided.

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