eSolar is one of a dozen startups that are looking to build solar thermal plants in the deserts of California. While the company says it’s using the lessons of infotech — computing and algorithms — to make low cost modular solar, we were wondering what really makes eSolar stand out? The company has certainly gotten a lot of attention — receiving at least $130 million from Google.org, Bill Gross’ Idealab, and other investors, and inking a deal with California utility Southern California Edison for a 245 MW solar thermal power plant. We thought we’d check in with eSolar’s CEO Asif Ansari and see what all the fuss is about.
1). There’s about a dozen other companies building solar thermal plants in the desert, why will eSolar be a leader in this area?
eSolar is producing easily scalable and rapidly deployed concentrating solar power plants and we’ve brought the minimum economic size of our power plants down to just 33 MW. We build power plants in these 33 MW modules, and replicate the number of modules depending on the size of plant a utility needs, so it’s just as easy for us to build a 33 MW plant for a smaller utility as it is to build a 245 MW or larger plant for a huge utility like Southern California Edison.
This uniform modularity makes it easier for any sized utility to incorporate concentrating solar thermal power into the grid. It also substantially increases the addressable market in developing countries. Most other companies in the United States right now are only building huge power plants, even though companies such as Acciona and Abengoa are also following the trend toward the smaller, mid-sized utility-scale plant in projects in Spain.
2). eSolar has said its replacing “expensive steel, concrete and brute force with inexpensive computing power and elegant algorithms.” Can you elaborate on lessons learned from the Internet and IT worlds?>>>MORE