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China taps eSolar for massive power project

Solar thermal plants to use the U.S. company's technology in a decade-long initiative to generate 2,000 megawatts of power.

U.S. solar thermal power company eSolar, whose investors include Google, said it has reached a deal with a Chinese power equipment maker to build a 2,000-megawatt solar thermal power project in China over the next 10 years.

The deal comes as the Chinese government aims to boost renewable energy generating capacity in the country, with plans to generate at least 10,000MW of solar energy and 20,000MW of wind power by 2020.

In a statement, eSolar said equipment maker China Shandong Penglai Electric Power Equipment Manufacturing was developing solar thermal plants using eSolar's technology.

eSolar power plant
This is eSolar's demonstration plant in Lancaster, Calif. eSolar

It did not disclose financial details of the deal, but analysts said the 2,000MW project was the largest of its kind in China and could easily be worth more than $5 billion.

Solar thermal power uses the sun to heat water, producing steam to power a turbine and create electricity. The technology is seen by some as a viable replacement for fossil-fuel generators because such plants can rival the capacities of many conventional power plants.

eSolar said China Shandong Penglai was building the project along with a biomass electricity generation facility within an industrial park in Yulin, Shaanxi province.

China Shandong Penglai would operate the first 92MW this year, the statement said.

The Pasadena, California-based company has deals with U.S. utilities, including NRG Energy to create more than 400MW at solar thermal power plants in the U.S. Southwest. It recently opened its first commercial power plant in Lancaster, California.

eSolar's investors include technology incubator Idealab and Oak Investment Partners.