SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Solar startup eSolar Inc., a producer of ''scalable'' solar thermal power plants, has closed $130 million in funding from several investors, including
search-engine giant Google.
Investors in the startup include Idealab, Google.org, Oak Investment Partners and others. In total, Google and its investment arm, Google.org, have invested $10 million in eSolar.
The funding will be used for the construction and deployment of the company's pre-fabricated power plants. Esolar's distributed solar thermal plants achieve economies of scale at 33 megawatts (MW), according to the company.
Founded in 2007, eSolar claims to have replaced expensive steel, concrete, and brute force with inexpensive computing power and algorithms. This new method of installing a solar power plant minimizes costly civil construction and the use of heavy equipment, reducing project cost and deployment time.
The company has secured land rights in the southwest United States to support the production and transmission of over 1 GW of power. ESolar said that it will have an operational power plant later this year in southern California.
''The eSolar power plant is based on mass manufactured components, and designed for rapid construction, uniform modularity, and unlimited scalability,'' said Asif Ansari, CEO of eSolar (Pasadena, Calif.), in a statement.
One of its investors, Google, has taken a strong interest in solar and other technologies. In 2004, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin vowed to contribute significant resources, including 1 percent of Google's equity and profits in some form, as well as employee time, to address some of the world's most urgent problems. That commitment became a new entity, dubbed Google.org.
As of January 2008, Google.org and the Google Foundation have committed more than $75 million in grants and investments.
It has made several investments in renewable energy. For example, Google's founders have invested in solar startup Nanosolar Inc. Google.org has also made a $10 million investment in Makani Power Inc., which would support R&D on high-altitude wind energy extraction technologies aimed at producing utility-scale power cheaper than coal.
According to Google.org's Web site, the group has also made investments in the following entities:
*Brookings Institution: $200,000 to support a conference in spring 2008 on federal policy to promote plug-in hybrids.
*CalCars: $200,000 multi-year grant to the California Cars Initiative to support their work educating the public about plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).
*Electric Power Research Institute: $200,000 to support EPRI's plug-in vehicle research and development program including participating in advanced infrastructure development, vehicle-to-grid technology demonstrations, and studies of the environmental and economic benefits of plug-ins.
*Plug-In America: $100,000 to raise public awareness of and to advocate for plug-in transportation options.
*Rocky Mountain Institute: $200,000 to partially fund an 'Innovation Workshop' to promote new strategies for greater production and market adoption of plug-in next-generation hybrid vehicles.
*Dr. Willett Kempton at University of Delaware: $150,000 for megawatt plug-in to grid research and implementation planning.