Greenwire  [Printer-friendly version]
January 3, 2008


By Jenny Mandel, Greenwire reporter

A large-scale solar technology project demonstrated originally through
the Department of Energy has gained momentum with new equity funding
and the launch of a business unit to bring it to market.

Hamilton Sundstrand, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:
UTX), announced yesterday that it would apply engineering expertise
from its aerospace and building systems businesses in a new venture
called SolarReserve, aimed at commercializing a concentrated solar
power technology (CSP) that stores energy for steady power generation.

HS Rocketdyne, another Hamilton Sundstrand subsidiary, worked with DOE
to demonstrate a CSP tower structure that concentrates the sun's rays
via reflectors onto a central tower equipped with a reserve of melted
salt. The rays heat the molten salt to very high temperatures, and
that heat can be used immediately to turn a turbine for electricity or
stored for later generation.

The system, which takes advantage of heat transfer technologies from
Rocketdyne's rocket engine systems as well as the company's work with
molten salt, was first demonstrated at the Solar Two facility in
Barstow, Calif., the company said.

Private equity funder US Renewables Group is the sole financing
partner of the venture, according to SolarReserve spokesman Randy
Steinberg, who declined to disclose the funding level.

Lee Bailey, managing director of US Renewables Group, compared the
energy storage capability of the molten salt system to a hydroelectric
power plant. "We will have the capability to store the sun's energy
and release it on demand," he said. "This product is more predictable
than water reserves, the supply is free and inexhaustible, and the
environmental impact is essentially zero."

Steinberg said the first solar plants employing the technology could
come online in late 2010 and would generate up to 500 megawatts of
power during peak periods. It was not immediately clear whether
SolarReserve would own and operate any plants it built.

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