Struggling nuclear company Areva drops solar division it acquired from startup Ausra

7 Comments

Credit: Image courtesy of Ausra.

French nuclear company Areva hasn’t sold a new nuclear reactor since 2007, and the company has been struggling heavily in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Now via the firm’s earnings on Friday, Reuters reports that Areva says it plans to shut down its solar thermal division, which it acquired from venture capital-backed Valley startup Ausra back in 2010.

Ausra was founded in 2006 and raised at least $130 million from high-profile investors in Silicon Valley including Kleiner Perkins, Khosla Ventures, and Al Gore’s Generation Investment. The company developed solar thermal technology, which uses mirrors and lenses to focus sunlight onto liquid-filled tubes, heating up the liquid and powering steam turbines. In contrast, solar panels convert sunlight directly into electricity.

Ausra switched on a factory in Las Vegas in 2010. Image courtesy of Ausra.

Ausra switched on a factory in Las Vegas in 2010, with Harry Reid. Image courtesy of Ausra.

Originally Ausra launched as a solar thermal farm developer — opting to build and own the solar projects — but later changed course to one focused on selling solar equipment to project developer customers. Building and running solar farms requires a lot of capital, which can be difficult to raise as a young startup. Other companies that develop this technology include BrightSource Energy, eSolar, and Abengoa Solar.

As the price of solar panels has dropped dramatically over the years, solar thermal technology has become less attractive to solar developers. When BrightSource finally turned on its solar thermal plant Ivanpah outside of Las Vegas, earlier this year, many called it a solar dinosaur.

Areva says its solar thermal division, which it has owned for four years, generated about 100 million euros ($134 million) in revenue per year but at the same time lost tens of millions annually. Areva wrote down a 373 million euros loss ($500.98 million) on the dropped solar business and 100 jobs will be eliminated.

Areva, which is 87-percent owned by France, also dropped a target to sell 10 nuclear reactors by 2016. The company saw its shares drop by 20 percent on the weak earnings news.

7 Comments

albrip

Areva should die. A nuclear company that makes always the same design since 50 years and makes money with such stupid and expensive things like MOX. And then invest in solar-termal. Nuclear needs some innovation again: stalled 50 years ago. Companies like Areva are against innovation because it’s very dangerous for their (old) business model.

Jim Knopf

AREVA Solar probably made a loss on its projects…making it false to imply that the mother company made any money out of it. Just a black hole for money.

Brendan Kayes

“…generated about 100 million euros ($134 million) in revenue per year but at the same time lost tens of millions annually” is not a very clear statement.

Daniel Taute

$500 million loss?

What idiot thought thermal solar could ever be a viable power source?
It has been around since the 1868 and never amounted to anything for good reason.

Katie Fehrenbacher

This is all from Reuters, I didn’t go into the financial filings myself. $500 million is the write-down Areva took on closing it. $134 million is the annual revenue from the division and “tens of millions” is what Reuters reported as annual net income from the division.

Jim

Sad to see them go as they were developing molten salt energy storage options for day/night solar power. Times are tough in the nuclear biz…

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