As China moves rapidly to become the world’s leader in wind energy and photovoltaic solar panels, China is taking tentative steps to master another alternative energy industry: using mirrors to capture sunlight, produce steam and generate electricity.
So-called concentrating solar power uses hundreds of thousands of mirrors to turn water into steam. The steam turns a conventional turbine similar to those in coal-fired power plants. The technology, which is potentially cheaper than most types of renewable power, has captivated many engineers and financiers in the last two years, with an abrupt surge in new patents and plans for large power operations in Europe and the United States.
This year may be China’s turn. China is starting to build its own concentrating solar power plants, a technology more associated with California deserts than China’s countryside. And Chinese manufacturers are starting to think about exports, part of China’s effort to become the world’s main provider of alternative energy power equipment.
The deal was signed in the Chinese State Council building with government officials in attendance and represents the country’s largest CSP project. Groundbreaking of the first 92 megawatts (MW) will take place in 2010.
Penglai Electric plans to develop 2 GW of power plants by 2021 using eSolar’s proven solar thermal technology. The solar thermal power plants will be co-located with biomass electricity generation facilities. Penglai Electric will leverage local manufacturing to source some of the equipment. In total, the plants will eliminate 15 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
"Using the power of the sun, eSolar’s technology minimizes the environmental impact on manufacturing and deployment while maximizing land and cost efficiency," said Liu Guangyu, chairman and CEO of Penglai Electric. "We are extremely grateful to the Chinese government for playing a major role in promoting zero-carbon renewable energy."
"With Penglai as our partner and with the strong support of the Chinese government, eSolar is proud to be the first company to deliver the benefits of cost-effective solar thermal power to China," said Bill Gross, founder and chairman of eSolar.
China Huadian Engineering Co. will lead the construction process. At completion, China Shaanxi Yulin Huayang New Energy Co. will own and operate the first 92 MW plant. "To date, eSolar offers the only CSP tower technology that has demonstrated commercial maturity and economic feasibility," added Zhao Weikang, chairman and president of Shaanxi Yulin Huayang New Energy Co. "We’re excited to build our initial hybrid plant as part of the 170-square kilometer Yulin Alternative Energy Park, the first large scale alternative energy park in China. Our work is aligned with the government’s continuing policy to curb carbon emissions and combat climate change."
China is currently the market leader in the PV manufacturing industry. The deal represents the country’s first major move into concentrating solar thermal power. The Chinese government recently announced its aggressive plans to increase the country’s renewable power generation capacity to 15 percent by 2020.
eSolar is an Idealab company founded in 2007 to develop modular and scalable solar thermal power plant technology. In the summer of 2009, eSolar unveiled the 5 MW Sierra SunTower Plant, the only commercial CSP tower facility in North America. The eSolar solution marries a low-impact, pre-fabricated form factor with advanced computer software engineering to meet the demand for reliable and cost-competitive solar energy. eSolar’s proprietary solution resolves issues of price, scalability, speed of deployment, and grid impact that have historically stymied solar thermal adoption, thus affording dramatic reductions in the cost of solar thermal energy. eSolar is based in Pasadena, California.
China Shandong Penglai Electric Power Equipment Manufacturing Co., Ltd was founded in 1987 as the preferred vendor for the state-owned Chinese Power Complete Equipment Co., Ltd (CPCEC) and the Chinese Academy of Electric Power Design (ChinaPower.com.cn). Penglai Electric is one of the many independently owned and operated enterprises conceived as a result of the Chinese economic reform. With its own core team of about 1,000 employees, its main line of business includes manufacturing auxiliary and energy-saving components for 200MW, 300MW, and 600MW to 1,000MW fire-powered electrical power plants.
Since 2001, Penglai Electric Power has been granted ISO9001 quality assurance and self import and export privileges. By synergistically combining its technical expertise, manufacturing capability, and trading know-how, Penglai Electric offers comprehensive solutions in research and development, technical consultation, auxiliary component introduction and manufacturing, installation, and tuning for more than 60% of the major fire-powered electrical plants in China. Penglai Electric is based in Penglai, Shandong, China.