Solar Thermal Sierra SunTower

eSolar's Sierra SunTower solar power plant in California's Antelope Valley
eSolar’s Sierra SunTower solar power plant soaks up the sun in California’s Antelope Valley.

With 24,000 mirrors glimmering under the Antelope Valley summer sun, eSolar, a leading provider of modular, scalable solar thermal power technology, unveiled its 5-megawatt Sierra SunTower solar power plant. The full-scale power plant, the only power tower of its kind in the U.S., produces electricity for Southern California Edison (SCE) and can power more than 4,000 homes in California’s Antelope Valley.

The eSolar technology resolves many of the problems that have held back large scale solar in the past including cost, speed of deployment, and proximity to existing transmission lines. eSolar uses advanced software algorithms to precisely focus thousands of mirrors on a single point to efficiently harvest the sun’s energy and achieve economies of scale with a smaller footprint than anyone else in the business.

Bill Gross, CEO of eSolar, remarked, “Today, we unveil a new blueprint for solar energy — one that leverages Moore’s law rather than more steel. Sierra is just the beginning. Soon eSolar technology will be deployed worldwide to provide clean, affordable energy to hundreds of thousands of homes.”

Constructed in less than one year, eSolar’s Sierra SunTower power plant marks the first of several developments in the Antelope Valley region using eSolar technology. Over the course of construction, this project created 300 jobs.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commented, “With today’s historic plant opening, eSolar is proving that California’s energy and environmental leadership are advancing carbon-free, cost-effective energy that can be used around the world. Through measures such as AB 32 and the California Solar Initiative, I have worked to create an environment that allows companies such as eSolar to thrive in our state — creating green jobs, boosting our economy and preparing us for the energy demands of the future.”

eSolar received the support and cooperation of the City of Lancaster throughout the construction process. R. Rex Parris, Mayor of Lancaster, noted, “The City of Lancaster is proud to be home to the nation’s newest solar power tower plant. This plant and eSolar’s progressive growth plans throughout the Antelope Valley are the crown jewels in our ongoing effort to truly become the Alternative Energy Capital of the World.”

eSolar develops its California projects on parcels of previously disturbed private lands, avoiding many of the permitting and environmental pitfalls of development on pristine desert lands. Located in northern Lancaster, Sierra SunTower is built on private land designated for heavy industrial use. The decision to site projects solely on private land is unique within the utility-scale solar industry, and the distinction has garnered support from local environmental advocates.

David Myers is the Executive Director of the Wildlands Conservancy. Myers commented, “eSolar demonstrates that pristine wildlands do not have to be sacrificed in order to keep the lights on with clean energy. eSolar’s efforts to reduce its impact on the surrounding environment demonstrates a level of foresight we hope to see from other solar developers in the future.”

Sierra SunTower was fully financed and developed by eSolar, proving the rapid deployment, pre-fabricated method eSolar patented and pioneered. Building on Sierra’s success, eSolar will deploy many more plants around the country and around the world. In February, eSolar announced an agreement with NRG Energy, Inc. to develop three plants in California and New Mexico that will generate up to 465 megawatts of electricity using eSolar technology. Additionally, in March, eSolar licensed its technology to India-based ACME Group for approximately 1 gigawatt of eSolar solar thermal capacity.

“Today we take an important step to a new dawn of power generation,” said David Crane, President and CEO of NRG Energy. “With eSolar demonstrating the commercial viability of solar thermal power on a large scale, and with NRG planning to implement the technology at scale across the Southwest, we will begin to harness the sun to power our lives.”

eSolar is an Idealab company founded in 2007 to develop, construct, and deploy modular, scalable solar thermal power plants. eSolar’s approach marries a low-impact, pre-fabricated form factor with advanced optics and computer software engineering to meet the demands of utilities of any size for clean, renewable and cost-competitive solar energy. By focusing on the key business obstacles that have characterized large solar installations — price, scalability, speed of deployment, and grid impact — eSolar has developed a proprietary solution to make a dramatic reduction in the cost of solar thermal technology. eSolar is based in Pasadena, California.

Read Solar Thermal Systems: Successful Planning and Construction from Amazon.