GE Investment in eSolar Fills Crucial Gap in Energy Portfolio

General Electric’s new investment in solar company eSolar will allow it to sell hybrid power plants that run on solar during the day and natural gas at night.

On Monday, GE announced it would invest in California-based concentrating solar power (CSP) company eSolar to supply the solar portion of the equation. 

Financial terms were not disclosed, but the deal gives GE the licensing rights to sell and develop standalone solar thermal power plants or hybrid power plants globally, using eSolar’s modular technology.

eSolar’s technology fills a crucial piece in GE’s energy portfolio. It uses small, flat, pre-fabricated mirrors called heliostats to track the sun and reflect its heat to a tower-mounted receiver, which then produces steam.

GE will integrate this technology with its recently introduced FlexEfficiency 50 natural-gas fired turbines to create hybrid power plants, also referred to as Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (ISCC) technology.

In short, the plants will produce solar-thermal powered electricity when the sun is shining and natural-gas powered electricity when it isn’t.

Florida Power & Light has already built one such facility in Florida.

eSolar hasn’t been in the news for the last year and a half, after garnering much attention for a handful of licensing deals in China, India and other overseas locations.

The company  received high-profile funding from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and others, but it has yet to see commercial development of its technology. That is likely to change now with the arrival of GE.

MetCap Energy Investments, a Turkish investor and developer of power projects, plans to collaborate with GE in making this investment.

"We developed the FlexEfficiency 50 Combined Cycle Power Plant to enable more renewables to come on the grid and to improve power plant efficiency. Our investment in eSolar is another step in our journey to transform the energy industry," says Paul Browning, president and CEO- thermal products for GE Energy. "As a part of this transaction, GE is becoming an investor in the technology as well as the primary channel to the power industry though the license arrangement."

The companies expect the transaction, which establishes GE as a minority shareholder, to close within a month.

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