Penglai, eSolar sign 2GW China CSP deal

Concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) company eSolar will license its technology to Penglai Electric, which plans to develop at least 2 gigawatts of projects in China in the coming decade.

A master licensing agreement was inked in Beijing on Friday. Construction on a first 92-megawatt (MW) project will begin this year, says Pasadena, California,-based eSolar. In total, the contemplated development would represent China’s largest CSP project yet, marking an expansion in the country’s ambitions from its leadership position in solar photovoltaic.

China Huadian Engineering is to lead construction and China Shaanxi Yulin Huayang New Energy will own and operate the initial plant, to be built at the Yulin Alternative Energy Park in the city of Yulin, Shaanxi province. The plant would be co-located with biomass electricity facilities.

Penglai Electric, a private electrical equipment maker based in Penglai, Shandong, China, will develop the projects and is working with local and global partners to manufacture components of the power-tower solar plants. Penglai’s license does not exclude eSolar from working with other partners in China.

eSolar’s design, put into practice last summer at its 5MW Sierra SunTower pilot project in Lancaster, California, consists of a field of small mirrors mounted on individual, computer-controlled motors that track the sun, reflecting its energy onto a central, tower-mounted boiler. Steam from the boiler drives a turbine attached to a generator.

eSolar pursued manufacturing improvements and computer vision technology to reduce installation costs, which can be prohibitively high for some CSP plants.

In pursuing an international growth strategy, eSolar has emphasized its role as a technology developer, partnering with companies to build out CSP plants at scale in different geographies. Last year, it inked deals with NRG Energy, which will develop, own and operate 500MW of projects in the US; ACME Group, an exclusive licensee in India aiming for a gigawatt of projects over the next decade; and Clean Energy Solutions, expanding operations in southern Africa.

eSolar and Penglai praised the Chinese government for clean energy policies, including a target of 15% renewable power by 2020.