Ausra Inc., a developer of utility-scale solar thermal power, announced Friday it is building the first U.S. manufacturing plant for solar thermal power systems, in Las Vegas. The 130,000-square-foot, highly automated manufacturing and distribution center will produce the reflectors, towers, absorber tubes, and other key components of the company’s solar thermal power plants.
“Ausra can fill four square miles with solar collectors every year from this one factory, enough to provide market-priced zero-pollution power to 500,000 homes,"
Bob Fishman, president and CEO of Ausra.
In November 2007, Ausra and California utility PG&E announced a power purchase agreement for a one-square-mile, 177-megawatt power plant, enough to power over 120,000 homes, to be built in central California
The production plant will begin regular operation in April 2008. Ausra’s new Las Vegas facility will manufacture the solar field equipment for the PG&E project and for other power projects throughout the American Southwest. The factory, the first of its kind in the U.S., will be capable of making over 700 megawatts (electric) of solar collectors per year.
In Ausra’s Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector (CLFR) solar technology, previous post, flat mirror solar collectors focus the suns rays on tubes filled with water, rather than a heat transfer fluid, thus directly producing steam to power steam turbine generators, in much the same way as traditional fossil-fuel power plants, but without use of fuels or emissions. Ausra's solar collectors will be mass-produced, using lower cost flat mirrors, rather than curved troughs, and sit low to the ground reducing wind loads.
Storage of heat from solar power plants can allow solar power plants to operate around the clock. David Mills, Ausra's founder and chairman says that solar-thermal plants are preferred because storing heat is much easier than storing electricity (as from wind power or PV solar). Mills estimates that, thanks to that advantage, solar-thermal plants capable of storing 16 hours' worth of heat could provide more than 90 percent of current U.S. power demand at prices competitive with coal and natural gas. A proprietary heat-energy-storage system being developed by Ausra should be ready by 2009.
Ausra claims that It can generate electricity for 10 cents/kWh now, under 8 cents/kWh in 3 yrs. It also claims that using Ausra’s current solar technologies, all U.S. electric power, day and night, can be generated using a land area smaller than 92 by 92 miles.
Ausra, Inc.is a privately held company funded by Khosla Ventures and Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers.