The French nuclear power company, Areva, has acquired the concentrating solar-power plant manufacturer, Ausra, for an undisclosed price. Ausra was founded by Australian, David Mills, who developed the technology when he was head of the Solar Energy Group at the University of Sydney. Dr Mills moved to California to secure funding from venture capitalists including Vinod Khosla.

Ausra’s Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector technology captures the sun’s power to produce electricity. Mirrors focus sunlight to heat water in  pipes and the resulting steam drives a turbine to generate electricity.

Because concentrating solar power systems produce steam to make electricity, Areva believes that the technology is more closely aligned with its nuclear engineering business, which also uses steam to generate electricity, than with other solar businesses in which photovoltaic cells convert light to electricity.

Areva believes that the market for engineering services around concentrating solar power will expand rapidly this decade and is forecasting a 20 percent per annum growth rate to an installed capacity of over 20 gigawatts by 2020.

The acquisition means that Ausra’s technology is more likely to be deployed on a large scale because utilities and financiers are typically reluctant to work with technology start-ups.

Fresnel solar concentrators
Fresnel solar concentrators