BrightSource, Alstom Eye Mediterranean “Ring” for Solar Thermal

BrightSource Energy and French power giant Alstom have formed a partnership aimed at building solar-thermal power plants in a ring around the Mediterranean. In terms of geography, if not scale, the plan echoes the scheme of the Desertec Initiative, the mega-giant of solar-thermal projects.

First Solar Jumps Aboard Desertec Jumbo Green Energy Project

First Solar, the thin-film solar giant, has just linked up with the mega-giant of all solar projects: the Desertec Industrial Initiative. The Arizona-based company announced this morning that it has become an “associate partner” in the ambitious project, which by 2050 aims to supply 15 percent of Europe’s electricity — plus a hefty chunk of the power consumed in Northern Africa and the Middle East — using solar and wind farms in the Sahara desert. First Solar describes itself as the first player focused purely on photovoltaics, or PV, to join Desertec.
In the associate partner role, First Solar will contribute expertise to working groups looking at utility-scale PV, while also helping to “prepare the ground for reference projects and a roll-out plan.” The company has signed on for “an initial period of three years.”
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eSolar Sets Its Sights on Africa

esloar logoSolar thermal developer eSolar is continuing its rush of deal-making, saying today that it’s inked a partnership with a South African-based energy firm to expand sales operations across the sub-Saharan region of the continent. Under terms of the deal, Johannesburg-based Clean Energy Solutions will exclusively represent and distribute eSolar’s concentrating solar power technology across seven African countries, including the Republic of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. Clean Energy Solutions will “work closely” with eSolar and operate eSolarSA, a separate entity responsible for project support and client service in southern Africa, according to a press release.

CEO Bill Gross said in a statement that eSolar is now ready to expand its global footprint and further its goal of making solar energy competitive with fossil fuels. Africa’s abundant sun means it’s well-positioned to embrace solar power. The South African government has set the goal of providing 10,000 GWh of electricity from renewable sources by 2013 (although that power could come from technologies other than solar, such as biomass).
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Holy Desertec: $555B Solar Saharan Project Finds a Dozen Backers

solarthermalgeneric2Ever since the news came out about Desertec, a $555 billion project to build solar thermal plants in Northern Africa’s Sahara desert to funnel solar power to Europe, we’ve been scratching our heads about what to make of it. The sheer size (supposedly large enough to supply up to 15 percent of Europe’s electricity needs), cost and timeline (over 40 years) is so utterly massive and ambitious, the project will no doubt look very different when — and if — it ever makes it to light. But despite the “fantasy” nature of the plan, a dozen serious and respected companies have signed a memorandum of understanding today to investigate how to build the project.

Participants include German engineering company Siemens (s SI), German insurer Munich Re, Deutsche Bank (s DB), German utilities RWE and EON, Spain’s power company Abengoa, Zurich’s electricity grid builder ABB, Algerian firm Cevital, European bank HSH Nordbank, engineering company M+W Zander, and solar firms Schott Solar and Solar Millennium.

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