GE Energy Invests in concentrated solar energy eSolar

GE Energy announced today that it has entered into an investment and licensing agreement with California-based eSolar that enables GE (NYSE: GE) to deploy Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (ISCC) technology to customers worldwide. eSolar is a provider of next-generation, tower-based concentrating solar thermal technology. MetCap Energy Investments, a Turkish investor and developer of power projects, plans to collaborate with GE in making this investment.

"When we look at the long-term future of power generation, we see the importance of integrating natural gas and renewable energy sources in new and innovative ways to provide energy that is cleaner, more cost effective and more reliable," said Paul Browning, president and CEO- thermal products for GE Energy. "We developed the FlexEfficiency* 50 Combined Cycle Power Plant to enable more renewables to come on the grid and to improve power plant efficiency. Our investment in eSolar is another step in our journey to transform the energy industry."

Under the agreement, GE will license and incorporate eSolar technology into its offers of cost-effective ISCC and standalone solar thermal power plants. The companies expect the transaction, which will establish GE as a minority shareholder, to close within a month. Financial terms are not being disclosed.

An ISCC project combines a combined-cycle system including a gas turbine, steam turbine, generators and a heat recovery steam generator, with a field of mirrors that focus sunlight on a tower to produce high temperature steam. Steam generated in the solar field is fed into the water-steam cycle of the combined-cycle plant, increasing the power of the steam turbine and creating extra megawatts of electricity without using any additional natural gas.

"GE has the world’s largest installed base of gas turbines that are being used in ISCC power plants, but these plants used higher cost and lower temperature trough technology and combined-cycle technology that have limitations in flexibility. Our revolutionary FlexEfficiency technology was designed from the ground up to integrate with renewable power, and the addition of eSolar’s high temperature tower technology to our FlexEfficiency combined cycle power plant is an important step forward for our industry because it allows us to offer an ISCC power plant that creates more value for customers at a competitive cost," said Browning. "As a part of this transaction, GE is becoming an investor in the technology as well as the primary channel to the power industry though the license arrangement."

eSolar’s technology will be integrated with GE’s recently introduced FlexEfficiency 50 Combined Cycle technology to create a highly efficient and reliable ISCC plant. "FlexEfficiency 50 can reach more than 61 percent thermal efficiency. With the eSolar power tower add-on, an ISCC plant provides the capability to achieve better than 70 percent fuel efficiency, while providing reliable power, day or night," said Browning.

"We are very excited to partner with GE, a global company employing technology excellence in the supply of power generation equipment and services, to create cost-effective, total plant solutions for customers who are looking to meet both their energy production and environmental responsibilities," said John Van Scoter, CEO and president ofeSolar. "Combining our solar solutions with GE’s thermal power experience and large plant expertise creates a more environmentally responsible power generation solution for power producers worldwide. Compared to current baseload plants, the ISCC reduces the amount of fossil fuel required for baseload plants, which leads to reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Together, we will move ISCC significantly forward on the energy landscape."

"We are very proud to be part of this technology investment with GE," said Dr. Celal Metin, chairman of MetCap Energy Investments."We see great promise for ISCC technology deployment in future projects."

eSolar’s power plant technology uses small, flat, pre-fabricated mirrors called heliostats to track the sun and reflect its heat to a tower-mounted receiver. This generates steam used by the plant’s power block to create electricity. Thousands of heliostats are aligned and controlled using advanced software algorithms to precisely focus the sun’s energy. eSolar’s technology is architected to provide modular fields that maximize energy production, are scalable to meet a wide range of customers’ power generation needs, while also enabling rapid, lower cost deployment.

eSolar was founded in 2007 to develop modular and scalable solar thermal power plant technology. 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 is based in Burbank, Calif.