U.S. Department of Energy

    Ausra Backs Off on Large CSP Projects, Focuses on Industries

    February 11, 2009

    Solar thermal company Ausra, Inc. announced in January that it will refocus its business strategy toward providing technology and equipment for power projects and industrial steam projects, rather than on being an independent power developer. The company is still committed to developing its 177-megawatt (MW) Carrizo Plains solar power plant in California, estimated to be online at partial capacity in 2010. In October of last year, Ausra launched the 5-MW Kimberlina Solar Thermal Energy Plant in Bakersfield, California, which is considered to be a demonstration of the technology that will be used at Carrizo Plains. While utility-scale projects are still in the works and will continue to be part of Ausra's long-term strategy, in the near term, Ausra will focus on deploying medium-sized solar steam generating systems that can be installed quickly and generate revenue immediately. See the Ausra press release and, for background, the October 29, 2008, article in this newsletter, announcing the launch of the Kimberlina facility.

    Solar thermal power is also getting some attention in projects at the U.S. Army and DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The Army's Senior Energy Council in October announced several pilot projects, including a 500-MW solar thermal plant at Fort Irwin, California, in the Mojave Desert. Other pilot projects include purchasing Neighborhood Electric Vehicles for use on posts, biomass to fuel demonstrations, a geothermal power plant, and an energy savings performance contract to reduce energy consumption. Meanwhile, NREL is in the process of testing an innovative parabolic trough design called SkyTrough. SkyTrough, developed by SkyFuel, is coated with a reflective metal skin instead of mirrored glass and is expected to operate at least as well as current parabolic troughs, but cost less to manufacture, transport, and maintain. See the Army's press release and NREL's feature story.