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California Solar Startup and German Industrial Giant Forge Partnership

FEBRUARY 19, 2010, 12:10 PM

The German industrial giant Ferrostaal will use solar technology from the California startup eSolar in power plants to be built in Europe, the Middle East and South Africa.

The partnership, announced on Thursday, comes a month after eSolar, which is backed by Google and other investors, signed an agreement with a Chinese industrial company to build solar power plants that would generate 2,000 megawatts of electricity.

Last year, eSolar agreed to license its technology to an Indian developer that plans to build solar projects with a total capacity of 1,000 megawatts.

Bill Gross, eSolar’s founder and chairman, said the Ferrostaal agreement continues the startup’s strategy of striking deals with deep-pocketed partners who can bankroll multibillion-dollar solar farms at a time when credit remains tight.

“They have access to capital and they have enough of a balance sheet that they can put a guarantee on a plant that a bank will trust and come up with the money,” said Mr. Gross in an interview. “We’re looking for partners all over that have that kind of strength to make these plants go forward.”

The terms of the Ferrostaal deal were not disclosed, but Mr. Gross said eSolar will receive licensing revenue from the partnership.

ESolar’s power plants use software and imaging technology to create a dynamic parabola from tens of thousands of closely packed mirrors called heliostats, focusing the sun’s rays on water boilers that sit atop towers.

The intense heat vaporizes the water to create steam that drives an electricity-generating turbine. The company, based in Pasadena, Calif., will supply the heliostat and tower technology to Ferrostaal, which will provide the turbine block and serve as the builder and financier of the projects.

ESolar’s power plants are designed to be deployed in modules of 46 megawatts.

Ferrostaal already builds power plants using an older solar trough technology.

“Working with eSolar, we will be able to expand our portfolio of projects around the globe in places where modularity and speed of deployment are at a premium,” Klaus Lesker, a Ferrostaal board member, said in a statement.

In the United States, eSolar struck a partnership with NRG Energy, a New Jersey-based utility, to build solar power plants in California and New Mexico.

Last year, eSolar built a five-megawatt demonstration solar farm in the desert outside of Los Angeles.




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