Ausra Heats Up With $60.6M to Build First U.S. Solar Project

We were pretty sure that the news that solar thermal startup Ausra had raised $25 million back in August, wasn’t the full story — Ausra Executive VP Robert Morgan had said that the company was looking to raise a round closer to $50 million for its Series C. Well, this afternoon Ausra says that it has closed a round of $60.6 million. The round includes Al Gore’s investment fund Generation Investment Management, as well as KERN Partners, Starfish Ventures and founding investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Khosla Ventures.

The company says the funds will partly go towards completing its first solar power plant in the U.S., a 5 MW project called Kimberlina near Bakersfield, Calif., which will use Ausra’s linear Fresnel concentrator technology. The company is also working on a 177 MW solar project for PG&E in central California.

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; the plantsuse mirrors and lenses to concentrate sunlight to heat tubes of liquid and power steam turbines. Startup SkyFuel is also working on Linear Fresnel technology, but plans to use heated molten salt, while Ausra says it plans to work with heated water.