GE Unit Invests with Germany’s KGAL in 50-Mw Spanish Concentrated Solar Power Plant

GE (NYSE: GE) unit GE Energy Financial Services announced today it and German fund KGAL are jointly investing 111.1 million Euros in a 50-megawatt parabolic trough concentrated solar power plant using molten salt energy storage in Torre de Miguel Sesmero, Badajoz, Spain.

The GE unit and KGAL agreed to invest structured equity in Extresol II, developed by Spain-based ACS, Europe’s largest developer, builder and operator of solar thermal power plants. Additional financial details were not disclosed. ACS has built more than 2 billion Euros worth of concentrated solar power facilities with molten salt storage in Spain. An ACS subsidiary, Cobra, finished construction of Extresol II in Dec. 2010 and provides operations and maintenance services to the plant.

"This transaction complements our growing European renewables portfolio and brings with it a different technology – concentrated solar power with salt storage – working with strong local partners," said Andrew Marsden, a managing director and European leader at GE Energy Financial Services. "Such investments also support ecomagination, GE’s business strategy to create value for customers by solving energy, efficiency and water challenges."

This investment is GE Energy Financial Services’ first in a concentrated solar power plant using molten salt storage. Concentrated solar power involves generating power from steam turbines with free, clean heat from the sun, avoiding the use of traditional fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas or oil. The plants use mirrors that reflect sunlight to heat a thermal fluid. The fluid is used to boil water to create steam and power steam turbines that generate electricity. Extresol II stores some of the solar heat by melting a special salt mixture during the day, then extracts the heat when the sun isn’t shining, such as at night, to continue producing steam for the turbines. Because salt is able to store heat for long periods, these facilities can generate electricity an extra seven hours a day.

This solar power plant is contributing to the European Community’s goal of generating 20 percent of its power from renewable sources, reducing emissions by 20 percent and increasing energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2020. The plant generates enough renewable electricity to power approximately 37,900 average Spanish households and avoids approximately 149,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year assuming its power displaces generation from coal- and oil-fired power plants.

"Our investment in the Extresol II solar thermal power plant expands our renewable energy portfolio into a new asset class and is a natural expansion of previous investments in photovoltaic and wind power plants," said Dr. Klaus Wolf, Managing Director of KGAL. "We now have more than 1.5 billion Euros in our renewable energy portfolio, with this investment marking another milestone in the history of KGAL’s infrastructure investing. We are pleased to team up with GE Energy Financial Services and retain ACS as a reliable partner and service provider to the project. It underpins the long-term focus and sustainability of our investment approach."

Spain was the first country to use concentrated solar power integrated with molten salt storage. Sixteen 50-megawatt projects have been built in Spain in the last five years, with another 25 under construction or planned. Worldwide, 30 concentrated solar power projects are operating, 10 using molten salt storage and more than 20 under construction or development.

By José Santamarta,