Luz II, an Oakland start-up that designs and builds large solar power plants with new technology, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from VantagePoint Venture Partners.
The funding is part of a first round the company is still trying to raise.
John Woolard, chief executive, told VentureBeat last week that he took the helm of Luz II recently after studying the solar industry landscape for possibilities. Most of the Luz II’s management is based in Israel, and Woolard’s hire helps the company set up operations in the U.S. Woolard had worked at VantagePoint as an entrepreneur-in-residence.
PG&E has already committed to take 500 megawatts from Luz II power plants. PG&E credited Luz II’s hybrid solar-gas design for being able to dispatch electricity at any time of the day. Luz II hasn’t specified which plant will be used. It builds plants that produce 100 megawatts or more.
The Luz II founding team have experience in the area, having built 350 megawatts of solar power in various plants in the California desert beginning in the late 1980s, Woolard said. That first effort (Luz I) foundered when solar prices tanked.
The company is doing so with less costly technology, Woolard said, moving from curved to flat glass in its mirrors. These track the sun as it moves. As the sun bounces off these reflectors, it heats some oil held in a central tower. This creates steam, which is used to generate electricity.
The company aims to produce solar power at 10 to 12 cents per kilowatt hour, which is about half the price of photovoltaic technology that is typical on residential roofs.
At 10 cents, Luz II’s power comes close to the price of natural gas, which is the benchmark used for California pricing of energy. Natural gas cost 8.5 to 9 cents per kilowatt hour (natural gas is generated by a combined gas and steam cycle natural gas turbine.)
Solar has higher up-front costs, but natural gas turbines have to pay to get their natural gas. Woolard said his long-term goal is get the price of solar down to the single digit cent per killowat hour level, something he says is possible because solar electricity can be generated more efficiently. Solar is also better because it has no carbon emissions.
Biz 2.0’s Todd Woody was the first to report on VantagePoint’s move to invest into Luz II.