Australian solar technology powering California

Tuesday, 11 November, 2008

Ausra and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have launched the company’s Kimberlina Solar Thermal Energy Plant in Bakersfield, showcasing the company’s 'next generation' concentrating solar thermal technology, which was originally innovated in Australia.

Schwarzenegger joined Ausra president, CEO and chairman Bob Fishman, US Reps Jim Costa (CA-20) and Kevin McCarthy (CA-22), California Assemblymember Jean Fuller and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) CEO Peter Darbee in launching a new era of solar thermal power with the turning of Ausra’s large solar thermal mirrors.

“This plant proves that our technology is real, it works, and it’s ready to power businesses or provide process steam for industries now,” said Fishman.

At full output, Kimberlina will be able to generate 5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 3500 homes in central California.

The Palo Alto, CA-based company, a large-scale solar thermal energy developer and manufacturer, has dropped solar power’s costs by simplifying the design of its systems. This also results in the most land-use efficient solar technology.

The company has demonstrated its ability to manufacture its systems rapidly with a state-of-the-art factory in Las Vegas that can mass produce Ausra’s 1000-foot mirror lines using standard materials to deploy and scale up quickly. The Kimberlina plant was built in seven months.

In addition to providing reliable, cost-effective electricity, the Kimberlina plant also demonstrates Ausra’s ability to provide solar mirror fields for industries that need high-temperature steam for their factories, either as retrofits or as part of new plant construction. A range of industries use this 'process steam', including: enhanced oil recovery and oil refining; food processing; and pulp and paper manufacturing.

The facility will also serve as the gateway toward developing Ausra’s Carrizo Plains solar power plant. In November 2007, Ausra and California utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) announced a power purchase agreement for the 177-megawatt power plant in central California. When completed, Ausra’s Carrizo facility will generate enough electricity to power more than 120,000 homes.

Unlike photovoltaic solar panels, which convert the light from the sun into electricity and are commonly rooftop mounted, solar thermal facilities use large fields of mirrors to concentrate and capture the sun’s heat, converting it into useful forms of energy. In Ausra’s technology, heat is focused on tubes of water to create steam that drives large power turbines, generating clean, reliable electricity and high-temperature, process steam for industrial applications.


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