In early June, General Electric (NYSE: GE) announced that it would build the world’s first commercial-scale Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (ISCC) power plant. As part of that announcement, the company said it reached a partnership with eSolar to license its modular solar tower technology throughout most of the world. Now it’s returned to invest $20 million in the company and will invest up to $40 million in the company under a new agreement.
“The initial investment is $20 million,” said Caitlin Cieslik-Miskimen, a spokesperson for eSolar. The funds are being invested in eSolar strategically. “Part of the funds are going to be used to help commercialize and move forward on the development of an eSolar molten salt storage product.”
The funds also will help the company move forward on scaling up and increasing staffing to meet the requirements of the GE partnership. The partnership includes the development of 50 megawatts of eSolar’s solar towers for the 530 megawatt ISCC power plant GE is developing for MetCap Energy Investments in Turkey.
The investment is for a minority stake in the company, according to Cieslik-Miskimen.
“They’re not disclosing the size. They’re still a minority shareholder. We’re not disclosing specifics around the percentage of the company [GE has] or their number of shares,” she said.
eSolar’s first project, the 5 megawatt Sierra SunTower plant, has been operational since 2009. The Lancaster, Calif., plant has two of eSolar’s modular solar thermal tower units. The modularity of the towers is one of eSolar’s signatures.
“All of eSolar’s plants have that same modular construction. It’s mostly a question of how many of those 2.5 megawatt plants are required,” Cieslik-Miskimen said. “The heart of eSolar’s advantage is our scalability and flexibility.”
The manufacturing process can take advantage of existing manufacturing facilities.
“Since so much of the plants can be prefabricated, we can take advantage of lower labor cost and lower component costs,” she said.
Another advantage is that the heliostats and other parts can be made on normal machines and be manufactured where it most makes sense throughout the world.
At this point eSolar hasn’t announced any other individual projects. But it has a pipeline of at least 3 gigawatts, according to Cieslik-Miskimen.
“eSolar is still pursing projects with our partners in India and China. In India we have a 1 GW agreement to develop concentrating solar thermal power plants,” she said. “In china there’s a 2 GW deal with Penglai Electric.”
The company also is pursuing further projects with GE, but at this point none have been named.