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Alstom Enters Solar Market With Up to $55M Investment in BrightSource Energy

Alstom, a global leader in equipment and services for power generation, is entering the solar market with an investment of up to $55 million in BrightSource Energy Inc., with an equity stake that positions Alstom as one of the main shareholders in the company. This operation takes place as part of a capital increase of $150 million organized by BrightSource. BrightSource is a specialist in designing, building and operating tower based solar thermal power plants with operations in the USA, Israel and Australia.

BrightSource’s technology employs thousands of mirrors to reflect sunlight onto a central receiver atop a tower to produce high temperature steam at the highest levels of solar efficiency. The steam is then piped to a steam turbine and generator which produce electricity. Because BrightSource’s tower technology can operate at the highest steam temperature ranges, the system benefits from the highest efficiency, performance and therefore lowest cost-per-MW among solar technologies.

Alstom’s investment in BrightSource illustrates the important role of our Luz Power Tower technology in meeting global demand for highly efficient, reliable and carbon-free energy resources. Alstom is a world leader in power generation. Their commercial and industrial capabilities and our shared commitment to innovation and environmental leadership make this a natural fit. We welcome Alstom and we look forward to building on this relationship as we continue to grow the US solar market and expand internationally.

—John M. Woolard, CEO and President of BrightSource

BrightSource has contracts for a total of 2,600 megawatts with PG&E and Southern California Edison—California’s two largest utilities. To meet this demand, the company intends to build 14 solar power plants in the US southwest by 2016.

BrightSource’s first US power project, the 392 megawatt Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System, is currently under development in San Bernardino County, California. On completion, the project will generate enough electricity to power more than 140,000 homes, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 400,000 tons per year. The Ivanpah project has received conditional commitment for more than $1.3 billion in loan guarantees from the US Department of Energy (DOE). The first plant is scheduled to come online in the second half of 2012.



It's interesting to note that even these big solar plants out in the San Berdu desert will need regular NG fuel to maintain turbine output levels:

"Each plant also includes a partial-load natural gas-fired steam boiler, which would be used for thermal input to the turbine during the morning start-up cycle to assist the plant in coming up to operating temperature more quickly. The boiler would also be operated during transient cloudy conditions, in order to maintain the turbine on-line and ready to resume production from solar thermal input, after the clouds pass."

IF solar plants are positioned to the public as technology that LOWERS fossil fuel consumption rather than GHGs - a LOT more (68% according to Pew Survey) people would get on board alternative energy.


Even Kramer Junction is natural gas assisted, but you use a WHOLE lot less than a gas turbine plant. If the methane comes from gasifying biomass, you are farther ahead of the game.


I understand the emotional and aesthetic attraction of 100% solar.
But.."perfect is the enemy of good"
The planet doesn't distinguish between 200kw of 100% pure solar power and a hybrid plant that is 1000kw with a 20% solar contribution.
As long as it is preventing 200kw of fossil CO2 emissions it is good. It is even better if the economics of hybrid plants are such that more hybrids and therefore solar gets built.
We all know solar is free but the capital to build it is not. A thermal solar plant that is idle 14 hours a day has all the turbines, switchgear and transmission lines unused but still being needed to be paid for. (The Banker never sleeps).
It is this capital charge that makes solar "uneconomic".


There is also the option of using solar assisted combined cycle. Instead of using a gas fired boiler, a gas turbine would be used to provide extra heat to the solar steam cycle. This would also allow another level of flexibility when operating and allow the plant to start generating electricity very quickly after construction and start up.



That makes a lot of sense, you have the advantage of quick start gas turbine and lower use of natural gas with solar.

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