French nuclear firm Areva buys U.S. solar startup Ausra

Nuclear power outfit Areva said on Monday that it has acquired solar power startup Ausra, which specializes in concentrating solar power tech at a large scale.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Nuclear power outfit Arevasaid on Monday that it has acquired solar power startup Ausra.

The acquisition of the Mountain View, Calif.-based company expands Areva's footprint in renewable energy, which already includes biomass-based and offshore wind power.

The French company does not sell electricity to utilities, but builds and services equipment for operating power plants. Ausra's appeal to Areva is its technology and management team, Ausra chairman and CEO Robert Fishman said.

"With AREVA, Ausra is joining forces with one of the world’s global energy leaders," Fishman said in prepared remarks. "Combining AREVA’s financial and commercial strengths, and its energy expertise, with Ausra’s proven technology and experienced management team will help position AREVA for even greater success in the renewable and carbon-free energy industry.”

Areva predicts that the market for concentrated solar power plants will grow substantially in the next decade, with an average annual growth rate of 20 percent. By 2020, Areva believes the market will reach an estimated installed capacity of more than 20 gigawatts.

Ausra's forte is commercializing solar power technology at a large scale, using Fresnel lenses that heat a liquid to make steam that powers a turbine to then make electricity.

Martin LaMonica at SmartPlanet sister site CNET explains Ausra's logic behind the deal:

The company, which raised $130 million from high-profile venture capital investors, had originally planned to operate utility-scale solar power plants and sell electricity to utilities. But having found little business, the company last year had to change its business plan to sell equipment for smaller-scale projects and other industries, such as food processing, that use steam.

The price for the deal was not disclosed.

The bottom line: green tech startups need to scale up for success in working with utilities -- or face shutdown.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards