Areva Selling 300 Megawatts of Concentrated Solar Thermal Power in 2011

Opportunities in the U.S., Australia, India, the Middle East and Africa may yield an additional 450 megawatts of contracts by the end of 2012, Jayesh Goyal, vice president of North American sales for the company’s Areva Solar Inc. unit, said today in an interview.

The orders come as falling prices for photovoltaic panels are prompting developers such as Solar Millennium AG to abandon solar-thermal technology, which focuses sunlight with mirrors or lenses to heat liquids and drive steam turbines. Large companies like Areva will be more successful in solar-thermal than startups, Goyal said.

“It’s important for big industrial companies to back these solutions,” Goyal said. “One of the reasons we’ve been successful is because Areva has stepped up and guaranteed the performance of the technology. Those who weren’t willing to bet on a startup are much more comfortable betting on Areva.”

Areva, the world’s largest producer of nuclear equipment, offers performance guarantees for its solar-thermal systems, and Goyal said the commitment makes it easier for developers to arrange financing.

Following a 44-megawatt contract awarded in April by the Australian government, Goyal said the company will announce equipment deals for an additional 256 megawatts of capacity by year-end.

Areva Solar’s technology uses flat mirrors to concentrate sunlight on overhead tubing to produce steam for electricity generation. Steam from the Mountain View, California-based unit’s systems can be used for for other purposes including enhanced oil recovery, industrial processes or boosting the output of natural-gas plants.

The company is talking to three utilities about using its systems for gas “booster” projects and expects to complete its first U.S. sale next year in Arizona, Goyal said.

Areva may move into other energy technologies, such as storage, and it’s not interested in the photovoltaic market unless “we see some value we can add there,” Goyal said.