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GE Invests Up to $40 Million in eSolar

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General Electric Co. (GE) bought a minority stake in the California-based solar company eSolar this week. As a result of the deal, Paul Browning, President and CEO of Thermal Products for GE Energy, will join eSolar’s Board of Directors.

ESolar already had a licensing agreement with GE Energy, which granted it exclusive worldwide rights to eSolar’s modular technology for its Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (ISCC) power plant solution. This solution, when combined with GE’s own “FlexEfficiency” 50 Combined Cycle Power Plant technology, is able to deliver fuel efficiencies over 70%.

In less technical terms, this means that GE believes the combination of technologies – natural gas and solar – is the best solution for renewable energy. This combination will ultimately prove to be the most efficient, most flexible and most affordable solution, for addressing the global issue of climate change, the company stated in its release, (using more complicated phrasing, of course).

Hybrid Solar Power Plants

During the day, these “hybrid” plants work by using the sun’s heat to generate steam for the water-steam system which generates the electricity. This is done through the use of small, flat, pre-fabricated mirrors which reflect heat back to a tower-mounted receiver. Natural gas is not used during daylight hours. But at night, or during periods of cloud cover, the plant will then use natural gas.

GE’s rights to the ISCC technology currently exclude China and India, but the companies say they are now targeting Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the U.S.

ESolar was created in 2007 by Idealab founder Bill Gross, with the goal of using pre-fabricated form factors in combination with advanced software systems to deliver cost-competitive solar energy.