Ausra: Big Solar Getting Bigger

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Ausra, the startup that’s building massive solar thermal plants in the desert and has already raised tens of millions of dollars from Kleiner Perkins and Khosla Ventures, is still adding to its war chest. According to a regulatory filing picked up by Pehub.com, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company has raised $25.4 million in Series C funding. And that’s probably just the first half of the round, given that Executive VP Robert Morgan said at the Intersolar conference last month that the company was looking to raise closer to $50 million for its Series C.

In fact a report from CNET had pegged the round at closer to the $100-$150 million range. Perhaps the company has dialed back on its funding plans in the face of an uncertain investment tax credit? The CNET report also said that the company would need two project financings next year and that it planned to go public by 2010.

This latest round of funding included a new backer, private equity firm KERN Partners, as well as existing investors Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins. KERN invests in a lot of Canadian firms, so might Ausra be looking at solar markets up North? We’ve contacted the company and are waiting to hear back.

Ausra is just one of more than a dozen companies building solar plants in the deserts that use the sun’s heat to generate power. Ausra manufactures cheap, flat mirrors that incorporate what its calls Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector technology, which concentrates light to heat tubes of water and power steam turbines. The startup has a manufacturing facility near Las Vegas and has signed a power purchase agreement with PG&E for 177 MW from its farm in San Luis Obispo County, Calif.

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