Australian success story, a win for eSolar: An interview with eSolar CEO John Van Scoter

As readers may have noticed, Danish concentrated solar power (CSP) company Aalborg CSP recently won a contract with Sundrop Farms in Australia to develop an integrated CSP system for that company’s greenhouses in Port Augusta, South Australia, a project that should be completed by 2016. The Aalborg system will combine a multitude of technologies in order to provide renewable heat, fresh water and electricity thereby enabling Sundrop to operate a clean energy-based horticulture business in the Australian desert. However, that is certainly not the end of this story, as Californian solar thermal company eSolar has now been chosen to provide the solar collector system for the project, which is quite an important win for eSolar. REM talked with eSolar’s CEO, John Van Scoter, to find out more about the company and its recent success in Australia.
Australian success story, a win for eSolar: An interview with eSolar CEO John Van Scoter

Tell me more about eSolar, what the company does and where its main markets are

eSolar was founded in 2007 with a goal to make dispatchable solar power competitive with fossil fuels.  The company develops concentrating solar power technology based on a unique modular architecture and high volume, automotive like, design-for-cost methodology.    eSolar’s business model includes partnering with other “best in class” companies to realize projects around the globe.  The company has operated a 5MW power plant in the southern Mojave desert since 2009 and has incorporated the cumulative lessons from this plant into the latest, 5th generation of Solar Collector System (SCS5).   Due to the products attributes it is highly competitive for both power and non-power (e.g. Desalination, Enhanced Oil Recovery, Industrial Process Heat) applications.  The main markets for eSolar’s products are Middle East, North Africa, Australia, Chile and South Africa.   The company is based in Burbank, California (USA).   

What is the current state of the CSP market?

Having experienced significant growth recently in the US and prior to that in Spain, the CSP market is poised for growth in new markets around the world.  In addition to power, non-power applications are poised to add to the market potential in the coming years.  Additionally, CSP uniquely enables cost effective storage and dispatchability with is becoming increasingly valued in many markets.

Is this a major growth area for you?

Integrated CSP systems that take full advantage of the thermal advantage of eSolar’s system represent a significant growth opportunity moving forward.  The ability to produce all the electricity, desalinated water and heating necessary for a large commercial greenhouse like Sundrop’s takes full advantage of the system capability and enables a project to be built without subsidies.   Anywhere there is abundant sunlight, scarcity of fresh water and demand for organic produce is a growth area for eSolar’s offering. 

What does this contract with Aalborg mean to the company?

The contract with Aalborg is a major validation for eSolar’s technology and approach to the market.  We can envision ongoing collaboration with Aalborg in the horticulture space, as well as other markets requiring integrated CSP with storage.  This contract demonstrates the bankability of eSolar’s technology and represents a “break-out” for the company. 

What advantages does your solar collector hold over other similar products?

The most important advantages of eSolar’s product are modularity, ease of construction and low cost.  Additionally, the company offers a molten salt based system that provides cost effective storage for a fully dispatchable solution applicable to both on and off grid applications. 

What attributes and lessons from previous generations of the product have been built into this latest model?

eSolar’s latest product, SCS5, builds on prior generation’s unique modularity while reducing parts count, improving ease of installation, reducing operation and maintenance burden,  and lowering cost by 40% from the prior version. 

Where else do you hope to market this product?

In addition to Australia, we see significant opportunity for this product in the Middle East, North Africa, Chile and South Africa.   Due to its modularity and cost advantage, it is uniquely suited for both power and non-power, on and off grid.  

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