General Electric’s (NYSE: GE) Energy Financial Services unit is joining KGAL GmbH & Co. KG, a German investment fund, to jointly invest €111.1 million (about U.S. $154.8 million) in a 50-megawatt Spanish concentrating solar plant (CSP).
The investment shows GE’s interest in supporting numerous solar technologies, not just its own photovoltaics or CSP technologies.
The Extresol II plant in Torre de Miguel Sesmero, Badajoz, Spain, is being developed by Spain-based ACS. It will use parabolic troughs to concentrate the sun on tubes filled with molten salt, which will be used to run a steam turbine and to provide up to seven hours of reserve energy storage for generation at night or during cloudy periods.
ACS has developed over €2 billion (U.S. $2.8 billion) in Spanish CSP facilities with molten salt storage. Extresol II was completed in December 2010. It’s operated and maintained by ACS subsidiary Cobra.
“Spain has a favorable regulatory environment for CSP projects, which made this an attractive investment,” said GE spokesperson Christa Bowers. “It complements our growing European renewables portfolio and brings with it a different technology—concentrated solar power with salt storage. We look for solid, fully contracted projects with strong partners and proven technology, all of which this project had.”
It’s not GE’s first investment in Spain.
“GE Energy Financial Services now has an approximately $224 million portfolio of solar and wind investments in Spain,” Bowers said.
GE sees the whole solar industry as an area for strategic growth, according to Bowers.
“GE is involved in the solar power industry in many ways, perhaps uniquely so. GE Energy Financial Services has made debt and equity investments in solar power generation projects around the world, and its venture capital unit has invested in several solar technology companies,” she said.
The company is manufacturing inverters, PV modules, racking and cabling and is invested in CSP company eSolar. It’s also doing research on other solar technologies.
“This investment complements our growing European renewables portfolio and brings with it a different technology—concentrated solar power with salt storage,” Bowers said.
The molten salt storage allows the CSP plant to serve as a dispatchable energy source, allowing the plant flexibility to meet electric needs as they come up.