Alstom Is Concentrating Its Efforts on Solar

Having accepted GE's offer in late June, Alstom has been discussed more in terms of being acquired than in terms of its recent project developments. Alstom's board of directors unanimously accepted GE's offer of 12.35 billion euros for, among other things, Alstom's renewable energy segment. Nonetheless, it is still making headlines, albeit smaller ones, regarding its energy deals.

Most recently, it announced that construction would soon begin in Israel at the Ashalim Thermal Solar Power Station, a concentrating solar power, or CSP, plant. Located in the Negev desert, the facility will provide power to about 120,000 homes. 

Ivanpah Source: BrightSource Energy

In addition to receiving partial financing from BrightSource, the 121 MW facility will also use the company's technology -- similar technology to that which was used by the company for the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. Located in Southern California, Ivanpah is a 377 MW facility, comprised of over 170,000 heliostats (specially designed mirrors). 

What's the deal?
Expecting to complete the project in early 2017, Alstom is responsible for engineering, procurement, and construction, or EPC, of the project as well as continued operation and maintenance services for a period of 25 years. BrightSource will supply the heliostats and optical concentrating devices. Megalim Solar Power Ltd., a special group which arranged financing for the project, signed a Power Purchase Agreement with the State of Israel in November 2013. Alstom's 25.05% share in the group is expected to be worth about 450 million euros. Jérôme Pécresse, Alstom Renewable Power President praised the project, saying, "It paves the way to provide cost-efficient and reliable carbon-free power to our customers. This project reinforces solar thermal power's position in Alstom's strategy, as the desert and the sun can support sustainable growth."

CSP vs. PV
Unlike using the traditional solar panels that most people think of when think of solar power, Ashalim will feature 50,000 mirrors that reflect sunlight onto a boiler in a 240-meter collecting tower. When the water is heated, the generated steam is piped to a steam turbine-generator where it produces electricity.

Foolish takeaway
Although more traditionally associated with wind power when it comes to renewable energy, Alstom may be marking the start of a new era -- one which focuses on the sun as much as the wind. Like Alstom, GE is more involved in wind turbines than solar power projects; however, should the acquisition go through, GE, through Alstom may gain a greater presence in the solar field. 

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