Ausra Opens its First Concentrating Solar Power Plant in California

October 29, 2008


Photo of a series of long, thin flat mirrors mounted in circular hoops that allow them to tilt to follow the sun. The mirrors are reflecting sunlight onto a pipe that is mounted above them.

The Ausra technology employs flat mirrors that direct sunlight onto an overhead tube, in which water is boiled into steam.
Credit: Ausra, Inc.

Ausra, Inc. launched its first commercial solar power plant last week. The 5-megawatt (MW) Kimberlina Solar Thermal Energy Plant in Bakersfield, California, is the first to use Ausra's innovative technology that replaces trough-shaped solar mirrors with a series of narrow, flat mirrors, which mimic the performance of a solar trough at a lower cost. The power plant is also the first of its kind to be built in California in more than 20 years, with the previous plant being the Solar Energy Generating System (SEGS) near Barstow, which employs solar troughs. But while the SEGS plant heats oil that is used to boil water in a separate boiler, the Ausra technology focuses the sun's heat onto pipes that carry water, which is boiled directly into steam. The steam can then be used for either power production or as process steam in a factory. See the Ausra press release.

The Kimberlina plant will also be seen as a crucial demonstration of the Ausra technology before the company develops its Carrizo Plains solar power plant, a 177-MW facility for which the company holds a power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). Ausra intends to build the facility in central California and to start producing power in 2010. Ausra and PG&E have also committed to developing 1,000 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) over the next five years, and Ausra's technology is also slated for a 300-megawatt CSP plant planned for Florida. But Ausra seems confident, as it opened a manufacturing facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, this summer to produce the reflectors, absorber tubes, and other key components used in its CSP plants. See the Ausra press release and the article from the October 3, 2007, edition of this newsletter on Ausra's other CSP commitments.