Silicon Valley Energy Company Opens New Solar Thermal Plant

Schwarzenegger Comes to Plant's Grand Opening

A Palo Alto alternative energy company has opened California's first solar thermal power plant in more than 20 years.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger helped launched Ausra's Kimberlina Solar Thermal Energy Plant in Bakersfield on Thursday, showcasing the company's "next generation" technology.

Schwarzenegger and Ausra officials said the new plant would bring hundreds of new jobs
"This plant proves that our technology is real, it works, and it's ready to power businesses or provide process steam for industries now," said Ausra CEO Bob Fishman. "Ausra is first on the market, providing customers a dependable, cost-effective solar thermal energy system. Some of the best investment minds in the country have backed our technology and our management team's ability to deliver."

At full output, Kimberlina will be able to generate 5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 3,500 homes in central California.

"This next generation solar power plant is further evidence that reliable, renewable and pollution-free technology is here to stay, and it will lead to more California homes and businesses powered by sunshine," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "Not only will this large-scale solar facility generate power to help us meet our renewable energy goals, it will also generate new jobs as California continues to pioneer the clean-tech industry."

Officials with the Palo Alto, company said they have dropped solar power's costs by simplifying the design of its systems.

The Kimberlina plant was built in seven months.

Ausra also plans to build a similar facility in San Luis Obispo County.

In November 2007, Ausra and California utility PG&E announced a power purchase agreement for the 177-megawatt power plant in central California. When completed, Ausra's Carrizo facility will generate enough electricity to power more than 120,000 homes.

Unlike photovoltaic solar panels, which convert the light from the sun into electricity and are commonly rooftop mounted, solar thermal facilities use large fields of mirrors to concentrate and capture the sun's heat, converting it into useful forms of energy.

In Ausra's technology, heat is focused on tubes of water to create steam that drives large power turbines, generating clean, reliable electricity and high-temperature, "process" steam for industrial applications.

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