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February 25, 2009

NRG Energy Enters Solar Field with Investment in Solar Power Plants
    by Robert Kropp

Investment by NRG will help eSolar build three solar power plants using concentrating solar power technology. -- NRG Energy, a wholesale power generation company whose portfolio of 48 power plants include natural gas, coal, oil-fired, nuclear, and wind facilities, has signed an agreement with eSolar, a developer of solar thermal power plants using concentrating solar power (CSP) technology, to develop solar power plants with a total generation capacity of up to 500 megawatts (MW) in California and the Southwest.

At peak capacity the plants will be capable of powering 400,000 homes with 100% renewable energy.

NRG will invest approximately $10 million for equity and development rights for three projects on sites in south central California and the Southwest US where eSolar's CSP technology will be used to sell renewable electricity under contracted power purchase agreements (PPAs) with local utilities seeking competitively priced, zero-carbon solar power.

CSP plants generate electric power by using mirrors to concentrate the sun's energy and convert it into high-temperature heat. That heat is then channeled through a conventional generator. CSP technologies require large areas for solar radiation collection when used to produce electricity at commercial scale.

eSolar is in the process of completing its first commercial demonstration CSP plant in Southern California, which will be the first fully functioning solar thermal power plant built in the United States.

The agreement marks NRG’s first venture into solar power. A member of the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP),an alliance of business and environmental groups that support legislation requiring significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, in 2006 NRG launched a $16 billion repowering program to develop over 10,000 MW of efficient and environmentally responsible new power generation.

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