NRG Energy Inc. to Invest $300 Million in BrightSource Project

NRG Energy Inc. said it plans to spend $300 million on BrightSource Energy Inc.’s planned 392-megawatt solar thermal power station in Ivanpah, California.

NRG’s solar unit will be the “lead investor” in the plant, the largest solar thermal power project in the world, the Princeton, New Jersey-based company said today in a Business Wire statement. It didn’t disclose the size of the stake it’s taking. The cash will be spent over three years.

NRG is buying into a project that’s recieved a $1.4 billion conditional commitment for a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy. It also recievd 2- to 25-year power-purchase agreements with Edison International and PG&E Corp, the company said.

“Solar power is a cornerstone of our strategy to produce and deliver clean, zero-emission products and services to America’s growing number of clean energy consumers,” NRG Chief Executive Officer David Crane said in the statement.

Construction of the plant has already begun, according to NRG. Brightsource has said it plans to complete work in 2012. The project will use pole-mounted mirrors, or heliostats, to reflect the sun’s rays to boilers mounted on top of towers, vaporizing the water inside with temperatures of than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (538 degrees Celsius). The steam produced will be piped to a power-generating turbine.

Edison International’s Southern California Edison utility in August won permission to buy 117 megawatts from the Ivanpah solar plant being developed in California’s Mojave Desert by closely held BrightSource.

PG&E was approved to buy 275 megawatts from the project. A megawatt is enough power for about 800 typical U.S. homes, according to the Energy Information Administration.

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