Monday, November 5, 2007

Ausra contract from PG&E - Milestone for solar thermal power

Today's San Jose Mercury News website announces a a PG&E plan to buy 177 MW of solar thermal power from Ausra's planned facility in San Luis Obispo County. I did not see this in the print edition today. So, clearly this will be big news tomorrow. The column also mentions Brightsource's planned 400 MW plant. The Governor cites the Ausra PG&E deal as an example of the power of California's AB 32 legislation. If that is the case, there will be a repeat of the late 90's Internet boom in clean tech. When some large entity such as PG&E primes the pump with such large deals the whole ecosystem responds. Getting 20% of PG&E's power from renewable sources by 2010 is a tall order.

As I discussed in my blog a couple of weeks back, the cost/kWh of most alternative energy sources, especially solar, is unattractive compared to current grid rates. However, legislative requirements for utilities provide a powerful incentive for renewable energy. Ausra is well positioned, because solar thermal power is reasonably cost effective and the company has powerful Silicon Valley backers such as Vinod Khosla, Kleiner Perkins and others. With paying customers such as PG&E and the end users such as you and I, the VCs will clearly see return on their investment. This might very well start the alternative energy Gold Rush ;-)


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