A Funny Use for Solar-Powered Steam: Oil Recovery

Here’s a way to use solar power that’s not so great for the planet — enhanced oil recovery. The executive vice president of solar thermal startup Ausra, Robert Morgan, said on Monday at the Intersolar conference that the company is looking at selling its solar-powered steam generating technology for the purpose of enhanced oil recovery. Oil companies inject steam into oil wells to increase oil recovery.

Normally that steam injection process is powered by natural gas, so on that front using solar is a cleaner option. Morgan said the company figures if the industry is using fossil fuels to power the process anyway, why not offer them a cleaner alternative. True, but it should still remind those that tend to become enamored with the green actions of cleantech companies that these are money-making businesses first and foremost.

Morgan also confirmed today that the company is close to closing that Series C round of funding, which was reported back in February. But Morgan said that the funding will be closer to $50 million, instead of the previously reported $100 million to $150 million range. GreenVolts also said today that it is raising a sizable round this year.

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