Four years after buying cutting edge concentrated solar power technology from Sydney developers, French nuclear giant Areva has announced that it is quitting the solar business, citing weak sales and falling revenues across nuclear and renewables.
The Paris-based company announced the move after revealing significant H1 2014 losses, noting that while Areva Solar – a unit of the company that basically consisted of what remained of the acquired, Australian-founded startup Ausra – had generated revenues of €100 million ($US134 million) it had made “tens of millions” in losses on that figure.
Areva bought Ausra – formerly and Solar Heat and Power – and its compact linear Fresnel reflector (CLFR) solar steam generator technology from the company’s founders in 2010, by which time the originally Sydney-based firm had relocated to the US.
At the time of its move to California, in 2007, the CSP start-up managed to attract more than $40 million in venture capital funding from cleantech investment big shots Khosla Ventures and KPCB.
Doubtless the main attraction back then was Ausra’s CSP technology, which is based on research by Australian David Mills, who developed the evacuated tube technology used in much of the world’s solar hot-water systems.
As Greentech Media reports, Ausra VP John O’Donnell once claimed the company’s CLFR technology could potentially produce power at 6.7 cents per kilowatt-hour at scale with its mirrors, lenses, and thermal fluids.
And though Areva was reportedly still insisting its CSP business remained viable as early as last year, cracks were beginning to emerge – not just for Areva, but for developers of solar thermal tough technology in general.