Thursday, in association with leading utilities FPL Group, Inc.(NYSE: FPL) and PG&E Corp. (NYSE: PCG), Ausra, Inc., a solar thermal power technology company, presented a formal commitment at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting for a clean energy future through the development of 1,500 megawatts of solar thermal power plants which they claim will produce electricity at a price comparable with conventional fossil-fuel power plants.
As part of this announcement, PG&E Corp. committed to purchasing an additional 1,000 megawatts of solar thermal power over the next five years. Separately, FPL Group committed to develop 500 megawatts of solar thermal power plants. Collectively these commitments will generate about as much electric power as all the photovoltaic solar panels installed worldwide in 2006.
Solar thermal power plants generate electricity by driving steam turbines with sunshine. Solar concentrators boil water with focused sunlight, generating high-pressure steam which drives conventional turbine generators. Energy storage systems can store heat from the sun to allow solar electric power to be generated on demand, day and night.
One of the major differences between Ausra's system and other solar thermal power plants is that they use low cost flat mirrors rather than solar troughs. A previous post on Ausra gives further details about how their system differs from others resulting in a lower cost of electricity.
"FPL Group has evaluated Ausra’s new solar thermal technology, and we view this breakthrough technology as a promising option to make solar energy an economically sound addition to our power generation going forward.” said Lewis Hay, chairman and CEO of FPL Group, parent company of Florida Power & Light.
FPL Group is the nation’s leader in wind and solar energy today.
“Solar thermal technology can scale up within a few decades to deliver over 90 percent of world electricity without carbon emissions and without raising prices for electric power. Electricity generated by an Ausra solar thermal power plant can be made available around the clock and reach capacity factors of 60 percent, just like coal and gas plants, and is expected to be competitive with current fossil generation and cheaper than next generation IGCC coal,” said venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, a member of the Clinton Global Initiative Advisory Board and Ausra’s board of directors.
FPL's $2.4 billion investment program is aimed at increasing U.S. solar thermal energy output and reducing carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming. The company announced three initiatives:
- Investment of up to $1.5 billion in new solar thermal generating facilities in Florida and California over the next seven years, beginning with a Florida Power & Light project. (the first FPL plant will be 10 MW and when sucessful will result in the larger plants being built)
- Investment of up to $500 million by FPL to create a smart network that will provide its 4.5 million customers.
- The launch by FPL Energy of a new consumer education program and new products that could increase renewable energy resources by at least $400 million over the first five years of the program.
The total cost of the commitments from solar thermal startup Ausra, San Francisco utility PG&E and Juno Beach, Fla., utility FPL Group could reach $4.5 billion.
In another article Reuters reported that:
A document issued by the Clinton Global Initiative shows that solar thermal advocates think they are ready to revolutionize electrical power production.
"Ausra recently published a major study ... which shows that solar thermal generation can deliver over 90 percent of all U.S. electric power, at prices directly competitive with (or cheaper than) coal-fired generation," the document said. (similar to a statement on their web site)