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.
Suniva is the only crystalline solar Solar Companies in the US which has been able to survive and thrive in recent times.Sunpower too has resurrected itself through strategic JVs and acquisitions.The main reason for the decline of the US solar companies has been the severe competition from the low cost Chinese Solar Industry.This has made companies like Energy Conversion Devices and Evergreen Solar shut down US factories and look towards Mexico and China to build low cost factories.However Suniva has managed to face all these competitive threats quite successfully and is looking to expand capacity in the US by building a 400 MW factory.The company even refused a DOE Loan Guarantee saying that the terms were too onerous.The company has manged to raise more then $130 million in equity and has won contracts to supply high efficiency solar cells to the Asian companies which is a first.Suniva differentiates itself through its technology which allows the production of high efficiency monocrystalline solar cells at lower cost.Note Sunpower makes the highest efficiency cells in the world in the range of 22-24% but its cost structure is too high.Suniva is looking to challenge the Taiwanese Cell Producers by marrying higher efficiency with lower cost.
Nuclear Recycling is the processing of the nuclear waste generated from the nuclear fuel cycle to extract useful elements like uranium and plutonium which can reused again in the Nuclear Fuel Cycle to generate electricity.About 97% of the used fuel can be recycled leaving only 3% as high-level waste. The recyclable portion is mostly uranium depleted to less than 1% U-235, with some plutonium, which is most valuable. Arising from a year’s operation of a typical l000 MWe nuclear reactor, about 230 kilograms of plutonium (1% of the spent fuel) is separated in reprocessing. This can be used in fresh mixed oxide (MOX) fuel (but not weapons, due its composition). MOX fuel fabrication occurs in Europe, with some 25 years of operating experience. The main plant is in France, and started up in 1995.Major commercial reprocessing plants are operating in France and UK, with capacity of almost 5000 tonnes of used fuel per year, – equivalent to at least one third of the world’s annual output. A total of some 90,000 tonnes of spent fuel has been reprocessed at these over 40 years.
Nuclear Waste is one of the most difficult waste products to transport and store because of its dangerous radioactive effects.Given the long life of some of the transuranic elements Nuclear Waste has to be stored in a safe manner for thousands of years which is a tough given that the chances of leakage become enormous in such a long time scale.Storing of Nuclear Waste has to be performed in a extremely complicated manner which is also enormously costly.Also there are problems of NIMBY with Nuclear Waste Storage as nearby residents don’t want such toxic waste stored anywhere close especially as it does not bring any economic or social benefits.Not there is no permanent storage site despite many decades of planning and billions of dollars being spent.While Japan and Europe reprocess the fuel in the hope that they will be used again that remains a dream with thousands of tons of HLW piling up.USA does not reprocess and also has more than 60,000 tons of nuclear waste waiting for a final home.Till then most of the spent nuclear fuel is being stored in spent fuel pools and dry casks making them vulnerable just like another Fukushima
Solar Power Plants till a couple of years were quite small compared to the mainstream energy power plants.Most power plants were in the double digit range with no Solar Farms having the capacity of 100 MW or greater.This is in reference to PV Solar Power Plants and not to Solar Thermal Plants which are bigger in size.Note Solar Thermal Plants by the very nature of technology require larger sizes to be economical just like Thermal or Nuclear Power Plants.On the other hand PV Power Plants do not gain much in economies of scale and government prefer giving subsidies to distributed rooftop solar installations rather than large solar farms.
Coal is the biggest source of Energy for Electricity Production in the world and its use is expected to continue to grow to 44% of the Electricity Production by 2030 (IEA).Despite Coal having many dangerous disadvantages,its Advantages of cheapness and abundance have made it the Fossil Fuel of choice.With global reserves estimated to be around 200 years,it does not have the “peak oil” characteristics as well.Though not a Coal Fan,nonetheless Coal stocks are a great investment choice due to the fact of its growing demand which is outstripping supply.China and India are massively growing their electricity,steel and cement production which requires billions of tons of coal.China consumers almost 45% of the global coal production while Indian demand is growing by leaps and demands as well.Indian Power Utilities are grabbing up Coal Mines in Africa,Australia and Asia to secure feedstock for their gigawatt thermal power plants.Despite its growing importance Coal does not have a lot of choice in terms of investment unlike Fossil Fuels like Oil and Gas.Here is a list of Coal Stocks which one can invest in and the sole Coal ETF – Market Vectors Coal ETF (KOL).