Solar-power start-up Ausra looks to sell itself

Discussions are at a "very aggressive level" with global conglomerates, source tells Reuters. Sale would add to a string of recent deals and growing consolidation in the solar-power industry.

LOS ANGELES--Kleiner Perkins and Khosla Ventures-backed solar-thermal start-up Ausra is in talks with three potential buyers to sell itself, two sources familiar with the company told Reuters on Friday.

The buyers could take a majority stake or snag the whole company and the discussions are at a "very aggressive level," said one source familiar with the company, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Both sources said the interested companies were global conglomerates in the power generation business but declined to name them. The companies already have various power products, such as steam and gas turbines, and are committed to renewable energy. One interested party has engaged with Ausra previously, one source said.

Ausra declined to comment.

A sale of the high-profile Silicon Valley start-up that has raised $130 million in venture capital would add to a string of recent deals and growing consolidation in the solar-power industry.

Chinese solar-wafer manufacturer ReneSola plans to buy Dynamic Green Energy while silicon maker MEMC Electronic Materials plans to acquire privately held SunEdison, which installs, maintains, and finances commercial solar systems.

Privately held Ausra, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., launched as a solar-thermal developer in 2006, when solar power and other clean technology were luring venture capitalists.

Two years ago the company landed a power purchasing agreement with California utility PG&E , a unit of PG&E Corp., for a 117-megawatt solar-thermal plant. Solar-thermal plants use the sun's rays to heat liquid to create steam, which drives turbines and generates electricity.

Earlier this year, the company switched tracks , saying it would move away from developing projects and focus on supplying large-scale solar steam generators.

This month Ausra said that it canceled its agreement with PG&E and sold the project's land to the largest U.S. solar-power company, First Solar , maker of thin-film solar cells.

Ausra also has deals in Jordan and Australia and other investors include Starfish Ventures and KERN Partners.

One source familiar with the company said that "extensive work" has been done at various stages of completion with the interested buyers.

"We're talking about meetings with dozens of people involved," said the person, who also was not authorized to speak publicly about the discussions.

 

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