Areva Switching From Nuclear Power To Solar ?

French energy company Areva (best known for its nuclear power business) has purchased solar thermal power company Ausra - yet another example of a promising Australian technology company ending up with foreign ownership.

One possible positive interpretation of the news is that Areva are losing faith in the oft-predicted but unrealised "nuclear renaissance" and now see the real future growth opportunities in large scale solar power, with nuclear power (at best) a legacy business.

REW reports - Areva To Acquire CSP Company Ausra.

Areva this week said that it will acquire 100% of Ausra, provider of large-scale concentrated solar power solutions. This acquisition launches Areva's new global solar energy business and the company said that it reflects Areva's strategic objective to be the world leader in concentrated solar power (CSP) and will further strengthen and diversify its renewables portfolio.

This acquisition is expected to close in the next few months, subject to customary regulatory approval. Ausra will continue to operate out of its existing Mountain View, California headquarters.

"Today is about making a strong company even stronger. With Areva, Ausra is joining forces with one of the world's global energy leaders. Combining Areva's financial and commercial strengths, and its energy expertise, with Ausra's proven technology and experienced management team will help position Areva for even greater success in the renewable and carbon-free energy industry," said Dr. Robert Fishman, Ausra's chairman and CEO.

Ausra's Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector (CLFR) solar steam generators are designed for existing fossil-fired plants, new standalone solar and solar/fossil hybrid power plants and for industrial process steam customers. Ausra is the first solar steam boiler manufacturer to be awarded the ASME 'S' Stamp the industry hallmark of acceptance and certification.

The market for concentrated solar power plants is expected to grow substantially in the next decade with an average annual growth rate of 20% and should reach an estimated installed capacity of over 20 GW by 2020. With this acquisition, Areva is planning to capture large market share in the emergin sector.

Late last year, Ausra was selected as the solar steam boiler supplier for the proposed 100-megawatt JOAN1 concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) project currently under development in Ma'an, Jordan.

And a more realistic interpretation is that AREVA is following its stated objective - that of providing a diverse portofolio of CO2 free energy generation solutions to its customers. AREVA has acquired in the past a wind turbine manufacturer in Germany and has recently been involved in developing biomass fueled plants in North America. Even so, the renewables are still a tiny part of AREVA's revenue, and it remains the biggest nuclear supplier in the world. With or without the nuclear renaissance, that's not going to change anytime soon, considering that AREVA's home country generates around 80% of it's electricity demand from nuclear.

Sure - if Areva remain a company that depends mostly on the French market it will stay heavily oriented to nuclear power.

I'm talking about a company that I presume wants to grow globally and is thus looking for real growth opportunities...

Given the absolutely insane subsidies to solar...50 cents a KWhr in France alone, what company wouldn't want to invest? It's already helped bankrupt Spain, so Areva might also be rethinking this.

It's big money is still in nuclear and it is precisely internationally that their EPR is going to sell, even with competition from Korea. The idea that the company is "going solar" is simply nuts.

Lots of companies are building working solar thermal power stations around the world while the few nuclear projects going remain mired in delays and cost blowouts.

The fact that Areva purchased a solar power company indicates that they obviously don't think going solar is nuts - most people would say going nuclear is nits, given the huge cost and variety of unpleasant side effects associated with it.