Solar power plant maker Solel raises more than $100 million

The race is on to construct power plants using solar thermal technology in the southwest U.S. and Spain.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica

Providing fresh evidence that solar thermal is one of the hottest segments in green tech, Solel said on Monday that Ecofin is investing $105 million into the company.

Solel makes equipment for solar thermal power plants, facilities that use the sun's heat to create steam and turn an electricity generator.

Its specialty is parabolic troughs. Thousands of troughs reflect sunlight to heat a liquid that makes steam. The company's equipment has been in use in the Mojave Desert since 1985.

Solar thermal is one of the most cost-effective forms of renewable power and is best suited for desert areas, such as the southwestern United States and parts of Spain.

People in the industry say that a race is on to build out these solar power plants over the coming years to meet utilities' demand for renewable sources of electricity.

Solel, which is based in Israel, has already signed a power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric to supply a 553 megawatt plant in California, and it is in discussions with others. It is also constructing 150 megawatts of plants in Spain.

In a release, it said that technology improvements have increased the efficiency of its process by 40 percent, compared with its older designs.

Other companies addressing the same market are Ausra, eSolar, GreenVolts, and BrightSource Energy.