When Ausra moved from Sydney to California 12 months ago it had big plans. Backed by leading Silicon Valley financiers and $40 million in fresh financing, the company was going to pepper the hot California desert with very large, utility-scale solar generation power plants.
What a difference year makes, hammered by the credit crisis, the Palo Alto, Calif. company is scaling back.
This month it laid-off 10% of its 108 employees and decided, at least for the time being, to shift away from utility-scale developments to instead develop smaller and cheaper projects.
Ausra still thinks that there is a business for large-scale solar power plants but at a cost of around $1 billion, in this financial climate such projects are not viable.
Ausra CEO Bob Fishman told the San Jose Mercury News that the strategy shift was a direct response to the poor state of the credit markets.
“What a lot of people thought when they went out and signed 500- or 900-megawatt power-purchase agreements was that it was easy to go from a 1-megawatt demo plant to a 900-megawatt project. That’s simply not reality. The finance market will not support it.”
Yesterday, SunPower, the San Jose, Calif. maker of photovoltaic solar equipment, said that it would also downsize its projects and “repackage” its large solar power installations into smaller pieces as a way to win financing.
Citing a company spokeswoman, Martin LaMonica at CNET writes that Ausra? could sell turnkey solar fields as part of an existing coal or natural gas power generation facility. The clean electricity would then help offset the plant’s CO2 emissions.
According to Fishman, Ausra plans to complete its 177 MW Carrizo Energy Solar Farm on California’s central coast and another one in Arizona. But, reports Todd Woody on the Green Wombat blog:? “the company has quietly let drop a Florida project for utility FPL and is negotiating to offload lease claims? in Arizona and Nevada.”
Ausra scales back plans to build huge solar plants (San Jose Mercury News)
Financing woes shrink Ausra’s big solar plans (CNET News)
Big solar gets smaller (Green Wombat)