Ausra's Prospects Dimming  

Posted by Big Gav in , , , reports that Ausra is refocusing and downsizing as financing large scale solar thermal power projects becomes more difficult - Ausra shaves staff as it chases immediate revenue.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Ausra released a statement today, saying it plans to focus on being a technology and equipment supplier instead of independent power producer to begin immediately generating revenue. The solar thermal power developer laid off about 10 percent of its staff this week.

Ausra CEO Bob Fishman said the new strategy means the company will sell Ausra-manufactured equipment to utilities and industrial companies wanting to generate power. Ausra plans to begin selling 50-megawatt solar-steam generating systems to food processors, enhanced oil recovery firms, and utilities. "Ausra can quickly ramp up and install these low-cost projects as early as 2009 or 2010, while large power projects can take three to four years," Fishman said in a release. "This will allow the company to deploy its technology and generate revenue immediately, while the larger projects are obtaining permits and getting transmission access."

The credit crunch has dried up sources of funding for many large-scale projects.

Fishman said Ausra is focused in the long term on providing solar thermal technology and equipment for large-scale power and industrial steam projects. "While Ausra’s direct steam for industrial customers is creating major near-term opportunities, building large projects, like the 177-megawatt project for PG&E in California, remains a long term focus in the U.S., Australia, and the Middle East," Fishman said. "The company intends to thrive not just survive in the current economic environment and beyond."

More at REW - Ausra's Utility-scale CSP Plans Change.
It has been rumored in recent weeks that Ausra was dropping its near-term plans to build utility-scale solar thermal plants in the California desert. Now, Bob Fishman, the company's CEO, has said that while the company will still move forward with development of a 177-megawatt project with Pacific Gas & Electric, it will be scaling back plans for other, similar sized projects in the near future.

Fishman said that the company still has confidence in solar thermal technologies and their applications and will continue to operate in that space. ... Ausra will also be expanding it's product line to include building medium-sized (50-MW equivalent) solar steam generating systems for food processors and enhanced oil recovery firms, and utilities for power augmentation.

The company said that it still has plans to move into building large, utility-scale projects in the U.S. Australia and the Middle East. This plans however are now in the long-term rather than short- to medium-term

Not all news from the CSP sector is bleak, however - reports on an Israeli startup that is concentrating on smaller scale, distributed solar thermal projects - Israeli startup grabs $5M for distributed solar thermal.
Yavne, Israel-based AORA said it raised $5 million from solar investors EZKlein Partners and L&Q Solar, coming out of stealth mode to reveal its proprietary solar thermal technology.

AORA plans to use the funds to build its first commercial solar thermal gas-turbine power station at Kibbutz Samar in Israel's southern Arava region by the end of March. Work has already started on the half-acre site, which is expected to have the capacity to produce 100 kilowatts of electricity and 170 kilowatts of heat, said Shimon Klein, managing partner of EZKlein.

AORA is pursuing a model of decentralized power using a hybrid solar thermal technology that can produce electricity around the clock.

COO Yuval Susskind told the Cleantech Group that the company is targeting an untapped market that's less impacted by the current credit crunch than massive installations, such as those planned by BrightSource Energy or Ausra.

"The solar industry is segmented into two themes: there's the photovoltaics that you put on homes, and on the other hand there are the huge solar companies out in the desert," Susskind said. "In the middle there's nobody working on providing 100 kilowatts to 5 megawatts of solar thermal and doing it close to people's homes."


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