Another amazingly sunny, potentially thunder-y afternoon out here in Jersey. Which is probably why I noticed this particular set of energy news out of the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York this week…
Three companies -- FPL Group (the parent company of Florida Power & Light, PG&E and green-tech company Ausra -- committed at the conference to working on solar thermal power plants that they estimated could generate up to 50 million megawatt-hours of clean power over the 20-year period after they go online.
As a collective, the group will develop 1,000 megawatts of solar thermal power plants. FPL has also committed to building 500 megawatts of its own solar thermal plant investments, while PG&E says it plans to buy an additional 1,000 megawatts of solar thermal power over the next five years.
Solar thermal plants work by focusing the sun’s rays to boil water, creating steam that drives conventional turbine generators. The electricity can be stored, allowing it to be used on demand even when the sun is hidden away. Ausra, backed by Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins, develops what it calls utility-scale solar thermal power technology.
Haven't been able to check these numbers, but Ausra cites alternative energy stats from Navigant Consulting's renewable energy research practice pegging the installed base of solar panels in 2006 at 1744 megawatts (with only 140 megawatts of generation capacity in the United States).