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Summary:

eSolar, the solar startup backed by Google.org and Bill Gross’ Idealab, said today that it’s inked a deal to build a 245 MW solar thermal power plant in the Antelope Valley region of Southern California and sell that solar power to utility Southern California Edison. eSolar […]

eSolar, the solar startup backed by Google.org and Bill Gross’ Idealab, said today that it’s inked a deal to build a 245 MW solar thermal power plant in the Antelope Valley region of Southern California and sell that solar power to utility Southern California Edison. eSolar expects the plant to be fully operational by 2011. In April, eSolar said it would have a power plant up and running later this year in Southern California (if this is the same one, that’s fast construction!)

There are over a dozen companies building solar thermal plants in California’s deserts; these plants will use lenses and mirrors to concentrate the suns rays to heat liquid and power a steam turbine. But eSolar is trying to differentiate itself by building “modular,” smaller setups that the company says are cheaper and easier to deploy.

eSolar uses smaller heliostats — the mirrors that track the sun’s rays — and says it will use “computing and the technology of mass manufacturing” to make solar scale at a lower cost. eSolar explains that strategy as replacing “expensive steel, concrete and brute force with inexpensive computing power and elegant algorithms.”

Guess the pitch worked, because it convinced Southern California Edison. The utility was likely also reassured by eSolar’s announcement in April that it had raised a whopping $130 million from Google.org, Bill Gross’ Idealab, Oak Investment Partners and other investors. eSolar also says it has “secured land rights” in the southwestern U.S. to produce over 1 GW of power.

This is one of the first announcements we’ve heard in quite awhile from Southern California Edison involving solar thermal plants. The utility tells us that it has a solar thermal portfolio that goes back to the 80′s and more recently has a plant deal in the works with Stirling Energy Systems, which it decided on back in 2005. But Southern California Edison is also investing in one of the most ambitious solar rooftop projects to date, promising 250 megawatts of photovoltaic power covering more than two square miles (some 65 million square feet) of Southern California’s commercial building rooftops.

Northern California utility PG&E aso already has several deals in the works with solar thermal startups Solel, BrightSource Energy and Ausra. Heck, PG&E might even build and own its own solar thermal power plants.

Now the next step for the plant that eSolar will build and Southern California Edison will buy power from, is to get approval from the California Public Utilities Commission. Though this will likely happen, we’ve also seen cases where for whatever reason the CPUC doesn’t come through.

  1. kent beuchert Tuesday, June 3, 2008

    The more tghe merrier when it comes to solar thermal. Great to see wind, wave and photovoltaic put on the back shelf where those useless technologies belong and alow solar thermal to produce economical AND reliable, controllable power that (unlike all the others) actually be there during peak demand and avoid brownouts or worse. I note that windsmills were producing exactly zero watts
    of power during the last crisis when power was not sufficient. Thanks a lot, wind proponents. Your machines suck and should be banned.

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  2. [...] plants in California??s deserts these plants will use lenses and mirrors to concentrate the suns …http://earth2tech.com/2008/06/03/esolar-scores-245mw-solar-deal-in-so-cal/Ernie's mental game missing News 24 South AfricaErnie Els says he needs to work on his mental game [...]

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  3. [...] Desert, which uses solar thermal and stirling engine technology. SCE, part of Edison International, signed another solar thermal contract last June, but it doesn’t qualify as anything close to [...]

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  4. [...] and suntracking technology — to fuel startup Sundrop Fuels. And it’s building a 245-megawatt solar-thermal plant for Rosemead, Calif.-based utility Southern California [...]

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  5. [...] up to 500 megawatts of solar-thermal power in the United States. eSolar also is building a 245-megawatt solar-thermal plant for Rosemead, Calif.-based utility Southern California [...]

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  6. [...] in New Mexico and California, to help supply utilities with electricity. It also is developing a 245-megawatt solar thermal plant for Rosemead, Calif.-based utility Southern California [...]

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  7. [...] to utility Southern California Edison (SCE), but the Sierra SunTower is independent to the deal announced last year with SCE for 245 MW also in the Antelope Valley [...]

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  8. All these great names throwing money at a great solution, how can it go wrong? The major missing piece is still the same math problem mentioned in the article, does it pay? $130M for 245MW is amazing, but I bet $130M is only one investor (Google) out of many. What is the projected cost per installed watt? What is the projected cost per kWh? If these projections show it to be affordable, THAT would really be news.

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  9. [...] it from winning over international and U.S. deals. Over the past couple of years, the company has inked a deal with California utility Southern California Edison for a 245 MW solar thermal power plant, won two [...]

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