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.”
For more information:
- eSolar – Home page
- NRG Energy Invests Approximately $10 Million in eSolar and Will Develop Solar Thermal Power Plants Using eSolar Technology (Green VC, February 23, 2009)
- eSolar Received $130 Million in Funding (Green VC, April 22, 2008)