Some very interesting people are saying some very interesting things about eSolar these days. Bill Gross, the founder of IdeaLab, which incubated CitySearch, Picasa, and Overture, for example, has said, "eSolar’s primary business goal is nothing short of making solar electricity for less than the price of coal, without subsidies. This is not only attainable, but will truly change the world.”
And even more interesting, Bandel Carano, Managing Partner of Oak Investment Partners, said, “eSolar is the only cost-effective solution that can deliver gigawatts of solar energy generation at market prices today, because they have developed a truly disruptive scalable solution that can be deployed rapidly.”
Market Prices Today! Well, that's a claim that we don't often hear. And "Today" seems to be a bit of an overstatement, since eSolar is still working on its first demonstration plant.
However, they've got some big names behind them, and I haven't even mentioned the biggest...Google, who, along with IdeaLab and Oak Investment Partners, just plopped $130 M on eSolar, to help them develop and demonstrate their technology.
Now, lots of folks are working on concentrating solar power plants like these. Like all others, they basically use mirrors to concentrate the sun on a focal point. That heat then directly vaporizes water, turning a turbine, or is transported (via synthetic oil) to a central location, where the water is vaporized.
But eSolar has taken an interesting route. Instead of trying to maximize the efficiency of its process, they look to be trying to minimize the costs of construction, deployment, and connection to the grid.
By creating their power plants as small, modular entities, they can:
- Make each plant the perfect size (in 33 MW chunks) for any market
- Locate their power plants close to centers of need, eliminating need for expensive new power lines
- Use the same design for thousands of power plants, eliminating costs.
- Decrease the amount of concrete, steel, and heavy construction materials needed
- Create economies of scale by having every small part duplicated thousands of times by global manufacturers
- Vastly reduce installation time, but delivering shipping-container-sized, prefabricated heliostats straight to the job site.
- Solutions for any sized market, from 33 to 500 MW
And they're doing it, too. They'll have their first plant online in California later this year, and they've secured the land and transmission rights to install a gigawatt of capacity in the Southwest United States already. And, in sunny areas, they seem certain that they will be able to be the same price, or cheaper, than natural gas peaker plants. If that's the case, eSolar could be seeing a lot of business...and those bigwigs with their big dollars are going to be seeing some good returns on their $130 M.
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