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GE Energy invests in eSolar thermal technology

GE Energy has entered into an agreement with California-based eSolar, which specialises in tower-based concentrating solar thermal technology.

By Renewable Energy Focus Staff

Under the agreement, GE Energy will exclusively license and incorporate eSolar technology into its offers of integrated solar combined cycle (ISCC) and standalone solar thermal power plants.

The companies expect the transaction, which will establish GE as a minority shareholder, to close within a month. Financial terms are not being disclosed but MetCap Energy Investments, a Turkish investor and developer of power projects, plans to collaborate with GE in the investment.

ISCC projects combines a combined-cycle system including a gas turbine, steam turbine, generators and a heat recovery steam generator, with a field of mirrors that focus sunlight on a tower to produce high temperature steam. Steam generated in the solar field is fed into the water-steam cycle of the combined-cycle plant, increasing the power of the steam turbine and creating extra megawatts of electricity without using any additional natural gas.

eSolar's power plant technology uses small, flat, pre-fabricated mirrors called heliostats to track the sun and reflect its heat to a tower-mounted receiver. This generates steam used by the plant's power block to create electricity. Thousands of heliostats are aligned and controlled using advanced software algorithms to precisely focus the sun's energy.

The technology will be integrated with GE's recently introduced FlexEfficiency 50 Combined Cycle technology.

Paul Browning, President and CEO of Thermal Products for GE Energy, says: "FlexEfficiency 50 can reach more than 61% thermal efficiency. With the eSolar power tower add-on, an ISCC plant provides the capability to achieve better than 70% fuel efficiency, while providing reliable power, day or night.

"GE has the world's largest installed base of gas turbines that are being used in ISCC power plants, but these plants used higher cost and lower temperature trough technology and combined-cycle technology that have limitations in flexibility.”

John Van Scoter, CEO and President of eSolar, says: "Combining our solar solutions with GE's thermal power experience and large plant expertise creates a more environmentally responsible power generation solution for power producers worldwide. Compared to current baseload plants, the ISCC reduces the amount of fossil fuel required for baseload plants, which leads to reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Together, we will move ISCC significantly forward on the energy landscape."

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Solar electricity  •  Solar heating and cooling