December 27, 2012

The Clean Way

Steam has been used to power trains and boats and used to produce electricity. The method used to heat the water that will eventually be turned to high temperature steam has varied. It can be by firewood, coal, fossil fuel, and even nuclear energy. These methods each have their own drawbacks from pollution to deadly nuclear radiation.

BrightSource is one company that’s into producing electricity but the method used to heat the water is by using the power of the sun. This is about as clean as you can get to produce steam for electricity and other uses. It is a sophisticated operation that utilizes proprietary software to control thousands of tracking mirrors, called heliostats, to directly focus sunlight onto a boiler filled with water that sits on top of a tower. Sunlight then hits the boiler and water inside is heated and creates high temperature steam. Once this high pressure steam is produced it may be used in conventional turbine to produce electricity or in industrial process applications like in enhanced oil recovery.

The company’s technology can also be integrated with traditional sources of energy production. Even in this setup it will lessen fossil fuel use and carbon pollution. BrightSource Energy designs, develops and deploys concentrating solar thermal technology to produce high-value stream for electric power, petroleum and industrial process markets globally.

The principal members of the company’s technical team pioneered the first utility-scale solar energy plant almost three decades ago by designing and developing 354 MW of solar thermal electric power plants, which is still in use today.  Due to its reputation it has been able to raise a sizable amount of venture funding from big name financial entities.  It has raised a total of $330 million equity financing so far.

The company is based in Oakland, California and is privately held with operations in the U.S., Australia, South Africa and Israel.  BrightSource has around 1.8 gigawatts of power under contracts with Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric Company which are California’s two largest utilities.