Sunny New Mexico: eSolar, NRG to Develop Solar-Thermal Plant

esolarimage1Concentrating solar-thermal company eSolar hasn’t been shy about taking on new projects. The Pasadena, Calif.-based company on Thursday announced another one: an agreement to develop a 92-megawatt plant in southern New Mexico with Princeton, N.J.-based energy company NRG Energy (s NRG). The companies say they are ready to begin construction on the project, calling it “shovel-ready,” and expect it to be fully operational in the summer of 2011.

The announcement is part of the companies’ previously announced goal of developing up to 500 megawatts of solar-thermal power in the United States. This latest project is expected to be the first commercial solar-thermal plant in New Mexico, according to the companies, and will feed electricity to the El Paso Electric utility.

It also will be eSolar’s first project outside of California, although the company in March signed a deal for Gurgaon, India-based Acme Group to use eSolar technology to build up to 1 gigawatt of solar-thermal plants in India.

In addition, the company is supplying components — including its heliostats 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 Edison.

That’s a lot for a 2-year-old startup to take on at once. But the company is making steady progress. Its Sierra project, a 5-megawatt demonstration plant in Southern California, has begun producing steam and is scheduled to be connected to the grid this summer, eSolar said Thursday. It had previously expected to have a plant up and running last year.