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A little over a month after opening its first 130,000-square-foot factory in Las Vegas, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Ausra, a developer of utility-level solar thermal power, has raised $24.5 million in a third roundof  funding from returning investors Khosla Ventures and KPCB. New investor KERN Partners, based in Alberta, Canada, also joined the round.

The company plans on raising more money — enough to bring its total closer to $50 million, according to Earth2Tech — during the current round. CNET noted a few months ago that it intended on going public as early as 2010 after first securing two more project financings next year.

Ausra expects its Las Vegas plant to make 700 megawatts of electricity generation equipment annually when it reaches full capacity. According to the San Jose Business Journal, the company plans on building 6 or 7 more plants as it continues to scale up.

One potential obstacle is the current impasse over the renewal of the federal tax credits, which CEO Fishman said may throw a wrench in its plans. The company has been exploring its options overseas and is in talks with the Australian government to supply electricity to its utilities over the next 10 years.

Ausra is in the midst of building a 177 megawatt power plant on 640 acres of private land in California’s San Luis Obispo County. PG&E, which has pledged to purchase over a gigawatt of solar thermal power over the coming years, will buy electricity from this plant. Its main rival, Oakland-based BrightSource Energy, is hot on its heels — recently grabbing a massive $115 million from several investors, including Google.org, and contracting to provide 900 megawatts to PG&E from its plant, whose construction will begin next year.

Fishman told the San Jose Business Journal that his company will be online before BrightSource. Ausra has raised $73.3 million so far, including $30 million in venture debt.

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