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GE to Invest up to $40 Million in eSolar

published: 2011-08-09 15:18

eSolar, a developer of modular, scalable concentrating solar thermal power technology, announced that in addition to its licensing agreement with GE Energy, GE (NYSE: GE) has closed a strategic investment in the company. As part of the deal Paul Browning, president and CEO of Thermal Products, for GE Energy, will join the eSolar board of directors.

 “Our partnership with GE moves our innovative technology to the next stage. Together, we are able to bring to market a power plant solution that drives down the cost of solar and meets the growing demand for renewable energy generation,” said John Van Scoter, President and CEO of eSolar. “Building on our proven technology, this investment will fund the development of next-generation, modular solutions that enhance the cost competitiveness of solar, such as molten salt storage technology. We welcome Mr. Browning to our board as a valuable asset in driving the strategic direction of the company during this time of rapid growth.”

An efficient bridge between flexible natural gas and renewable power

GE recently unveiled its Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (ISCC) power plant—a highly efficient and cost-effective power plant solution that couples eSolar’s innovative solar thermal technology with GE’s fleet of combined cycle products. When combined with GE’s recently announced FlexEfficiency* 50 Combined Cycle Power Plant technology, ISCC power plants are capable of delivering fuel efficiencies in excess of 70 percent.

“Adding eSolar’s high temperature tower technology to our combined cycle product offering allows us to offer an integrated solution with unparalleled efficiency, full dispatchability, and a market competitive cost of electricity,” said Browning. “It allows us to offer a power plant that creates more value for customers.”

He added, “Intermittent renewable energy has always worked in tandem with flexible natural gas through grid integration. As renewable uptake increases around the world, we recognize the need for combined cycle gas turbine technology that delivers both flexibility and world class efficiency. We believe that this combination of flexible and efficient gas with renewables can help meet near and long term global targets for climate change, cost and reliability. It is the future of power generation.”

An ISCC power plant features a combined-cycle system including a gas turbine, steam turbine, generators and a heat recovery steam generator, as well as a field of mirrors that focus sunlight on a tower to produce high temperature steam. During the day, steam generated in the solar field is fed into the water-steam system of the combined-cycle plant, creating extra megawatts of electricity without using any additional natural gas. During the night or during periods of cloud cover, the power plant remains fully dispatchable using natural gas. Solar thermal energy becomes much less expensive when integrated with a combined cycle power plant because the steam turbine, generator and other expensive components are already available and can be used for the solar thermal integration.

Through a licensing agreement, GE was granted exclusive worldwide rights to eSolar’s modular technology for ISCC, excluding China and India. Together the two companies are targeting Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the United States, and are working on a 530 MW project in Turkey with Turkish investor and power project developer MetCap Energy, which will feature 50 MW of eSolar concentrated solar thermal tower technology integrated with GE’s new FlexEfficiency 50 Combined Cycle Power Plant. eSolar is working to evaluate additional projects which the company expects to announce in the near future.

“Worldwide, demand for renewable solar technology is surging, and technologies like ISCC power plants are essential to bridging the gap between natural gas and renewable energy,” said Bandel Carano, managing partner of Oak Investment Partners. “Combining eSolar’s cost-effective and scalable solar technology with GE’s expertise in power generation will deliver an innovative solution that will lower the cost of solar and bring more renewable energy projects online.”

eSolar’s proven power plant technology uses small, flat, pre-fabricated mirrors called heliostats to track the sun and reflect its heat to a tower-mounted receiver. This generates steam that is used by the ISCC plant’s power block to create electricity. Thousands of heliostats are aligned and controlled using advanced software algorithms to precisely focus the sun’s energy. eSolar’s technology is architected to provide modular, prefabricated fields that maximize energy production, are scalable to meet a wide range of customers’ power generation needs, while also enabling rapid, lower cost deployment.

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