However Solar Thermal Technology is finding a niche in Hybrid Fossil Fuel Power Plants . The reason that Solar Thermal is gaining traction in Solar Hybrid Plants is

1) They can use the existing Electricity and Transmission Infrastructure of the new Fossil Fuel Plant or the Existing One

2) Solar Thermal Technology in most cases generate Steam which can be used by the Turbines of the Fossil Fuel Plant saving additional costs

Quick quiz. What is common to Suzlon, Moser Baer, Indo Solar, Websol Energy systems and Orient Green Power? All these stocks had successful runs on the stock market and hyped as the next game changers in wind energy, semi conductors, solar power and hydel/geo thermal power. Valuations were more on growth stories than through an hard nosed DCF spreadsheet. But now, they trade at record lows(like other stocks but what is different is the pressing fundamental concerns in each case). Is this a bubble finally bursting, or are investors panicking?

Solar Thermal Energy has been losing out in the last couple of years to solar photovoltaic energy which is seeing a huge increase in demand amidst very low prices.Some of the major solar thermal energy projects in the globe have been converted into solar pv installations due to its lower costs.Some of the major solar thermal energy companies like Solar Millennium have sold their solar thermal portfolios to other companies while Stirling Power Systems has gone bankrupt.Tessera has sold its solar thermal plants which had gotten DOE Loan Guarantees in California to Solar Developers who have made these solar thermal plants into solar panel ones.However there are some companies like eSolar and Brightsource Energy which are powering ahead with their technologies and projects with backing from big industrial MNC conglomerates like GE and Areva.Their Power Tower Technologies are supposedly more efficient than the mainstream parabolic toughs that are used.

America currently has a massive number number of startups in the clean energy industry and a lot of them in the fastest growing green industry that is the solar sector.However like startups in all industries a lot of them will fail,some will sell themselves to others like Heliovolt,Ausra while a few will make it really big making a fortune through IPOs for their PE investors and owners.One or two will make fortunes for those who invest early as well like First Solar.Note First Solar despite numerous ups and downs is still up more than 450% from its IPO price five years ago.It won’t be the last either.So despite the strong competition in the solar industry where numerous companies and technologies are jostling in the more than $70 billion global market,one or two of the smart ones will become huge winners like Intel or Microsoft.So which are the solar startups which are showing the most promise.Four of them are currently leading the pack while a few others have got a reasonable chance of success as well though they need to prove more like Stion and Miasole.Some of the more hyped ones like Solyndra have gone on a slimming down mode and might make a comeback though it will be tough.There are some others in stealth mode which may become big also.But here is the list of the Four Best Solar Startups in the Solar Electronics,Solar Panels and Solar Thermal Sectors.

eSolar is a US based Solar Thermal Technology Startup which has managed to raise $182 million from top VCs and investors and managed to win contracts to build solar power plants using its properietary Power Tower Technology in the US,China and India.Note like Brightsource Energy,eSolar is one of the most promising CSP startups which has managed to get funding and contracts,it now needs to execute to deliver on its potential.

Solar is using the Power Tower Technology same as Brightsource Technology which differs from the parabolic trough mainstream CSP Technology.Note Parabolic Trough Technology is used by most of the established Spanish players like Abengoa.It is also the Technology used in the 392 MW largest solar thermal plant in the US built in the 1980s by Luz.In this technology thousands of heliostats (mirrors) reflect the solar light onto a “Power Tower” where water or salt is heated up.This heat energy is then transferred into Electrical Energy through standard Steam Turbines and Generators used in Gas,Nuclear and Thermal Power Plants.

Areva the French Nuclear Giant which is known more for producing equipment for nuclear power plants is been awarded federal funding by the Australian Government to build a solar coal hybrid plant in Queensland.The 44 MW Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Plant will be built near a 750 Thermal Power Station.This will be the second solar coal hybrid plant in the world when its gets finished in 2013.Note Areva has huge plans in the Solar Thermal Technology Industry after buying startup Ausra sometimes ago.The company which is an expert in power plant equipment technology such as boilers,turbines will use its expertise to build a CSP plant adding to the power output of the Kogan Creek Thermal Station.Note the cost mentioned implies around $2.4/watt which does not seem expensive.The CSP Coal Hybrid will not require storage which will help in reducing the costs of the power plant.Note a number of Fossil Fuel Solar Hybrid Plants are being planned around the world.Almost all of these power plants use CSP Technology instead of the PV Technology.Its a valuable niche for Solar Thermal Companies to explore as they face huge competition from Solar PV which is drastically reducing its costs to reach retail electricity price equality.