Ausra of Palo Alto, California, who builds utility-level solar thermal power, has raised $24.5 million in a third round of funding from returning investors Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Now a new investor KERN Partners, based in Alberta, Canada, has also joined the round. This announcement is just over a month from opening its first 130,000-square-foot factory in Las Vegas. It’s well worth a look at the Ausra web site to see what’s going on.

Ausra\'s Simple Graph How It Works

Ausra plans on raising more money, something near to $50 million to finish the round of financing as stated by Earth2Tech. CNET said a few months back that Aura intends to go public, perhaps as soon as 2010 when two more project financings due next year are completed.

The Las Vegas factory is expected to produce installable equipment to make 700 megawatts of electrical generation each year when at full capacity. The San Jose Business Journal says Ausra plans on 6 or 7 more factories as it scales up. That would get this one company’s equipment production to nearly 5000 megawatts annually.

The problem, yes there is a problem, is the impasse in Congress over the federal tax credits for renewable power generation. Ausra’s CEO Robert E. Fishman says that may throw wrench in the buyer’s plans. Meanwhile he says Ausra is looking overseas and is talking with the Australian government about supplying power over a period of 10 years. There are few details about this, but Ausra got its start in Australia (Founder Dr. David Mills, University of Sydney) so going back is no surprise after U.S. venture capital got the development going.

At this moment Ausra is building a 177-megawatt plant on a square mile of private land in San Luis Obispo County, California. Pacific Gas & Electric has committed to purchase electricity form the plant.

BrightSource Energy Power Tower

Meanwhile BrightSource Energy across San Francisco Bay is ahead with a recently announced $115 million financing round from investors such as BrightSource has contracted 900 megawatts to PG&E. Construction begins next year.

Fishman at Ausra is not distressed; he expects to be online with power before BrightSource. With more history and $73.3 million raised so far Ausra can get it done.

That’s a bunch of money, nearly $190 million, and a serious amount of generation capacity at 1.9 gigs of power between them. Its safe to say that the thermal solar guys are doing just fine.

And it’s quite satisfying to be saying that. While thermal solar isn’t in need of technological breakthroughs and research into scaling up and other early development work, it bodes well for almost everything else.

It does again cast a long dark shadow on the Congress who by falling for incentives and keeping a complex tax code in the first place needs to get responsible and provide the long term tax and financial law that keeps such large sums of capital flowing so that the buyers of such equipment and the consumers of the energy can keep the costs in line and the planning for the future in some kind of stable structure.

It isn’t capital’s fault, utilities or even consumers – it’s the dopes that run a morass of taxation and need to offer incentives to compensate, that are off work – Oh, that’s a summer recess or some excuse for not working.


2 Comments so far

  1. Mic on August 15, 2008 1:07 AM

    I don’t intend to be a annoying but i couldn’t let it pass. Dr. David Mills is from the University of Sydney, not Sidney!

  2. Brian Westenhaus on August 24, 2008 10:09 PM

    Thanks Mic, Fixed now. Sorry.

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