PG&E and Ausra Partner on Solar Thermal Power

ausra.jpgThe solar thermal startup Ausra only started talking publicly in September, but already the Khosla and Kleiner Perkins-backed Silicon Valley company is one of the more high-profile cleantech startups around. This morning, Ausra provided additional details about a planned solar thermal power plant in California and an agreement to sell solar power to California utility PG&E (PCG).

PG&E says it will buy 177 megawatts of solar power generated from a one-square-mile plant that Ausra will build in San Luis Obispo, Calif. The solar thermal plant is expected to start generating power in 2010. PG&E previously entered into an agreement with Israeli solar thermal company Solel and is in talks with Oakland, Calif.-based solar thermal company BrightSource, too.

Solar thermal systems use mirrors and lenses to focus sunlight onto liquid-filled tubes, which in turn power steam turbines. The plants can provide large amounts of power at lower costs than other renewable sources, and Ausra is working to deliver electricity at the price of 10 cents per kilowatt hour or lower. When solar thermal technology can provide a price that is low enough, Ausra’s co-founder and chairman David Mills told us that he thinks it could one day replace coal.
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How Ausra’s technology works.

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