ESolar, a Pasadena-based company, lands a deal that will have it provide technology and assistance in putting up several solar farms in China. It is one of the largest solar thermal power deals of its kind, with a proposed total capacity of 2000 megawatts.
According to the deal, ESolar will supply China Shandong Penglai Electric Power Equipment Manufacturing Co. the expertise and technology to build solar power plants that have the equivalent peak output of that of a large nuclear power plant.
To start with, a 92-megawatt solar power plant will be built in 2010 located in the 66-square mile Yulin Energy Park in the Mongolian Desert. This region will be the center of China’s renewable energy. Another American company, First Solar, will build a 2000 megawatt solar photovoltaic plant just 60 miles to the north of ESolar’s proposed location.
Penglai Electric Power Equipment Manufacturing Co. will be in charge of the construction, and China Shaanxi Yulin Huayang New Energy Co. will take over once the operation phase begins. Although China is the world leader in the production of photovoltaic panels, the ESolar project will be the country’s first venture into large-scale solar thermal power production.
ESolar will use mirrors called heliostats that will focus the sun’s rays onto a water-filled receiver on top of a tower. The heat will vaporize the water, and the resulting steam will power the turbine to produce electricity.
Under the agreement, ESolar will manufacture the heliostat arrays and power plant receivers in China. ESolar will retain ownership of the intellectual property of the technology’s design and operation. At present the company has already set up its manufacturing facilities of heliostat arrays in China.
Experts agree that the ESolar deal indicates China’s aggressive move in gathering technologies that can help it achieve its renewable energy goal. Aside from solar thermal power, there are proposed projects that will use solar photovoltaic and wind energy as well.
ESolar is a solar venture backed by Google Inc., Idealab and other investors. Its first project is the five megawatt Sierra SunTower in Lancaster. This demonstration power plant supplies Southern California Edison.
Although the solar power concept is not new, the ESolar system utilizes sophisticated software to control the small mirrors. The software positions the small mirrors to form a parabola that will focus the sun on the receiver tower.