272kW Cogeneration Solar Power Plant Opened

It’s not every solar company that can boast the services of a former leader of the free world when it comes time to flip the switch on your latest venture capital project, but that’s exactly what US solar energy provider, Cogenra, has done.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has attended the California unveiling of what Congenra is boasting as the first commercial-scale solar energy plant which combines both solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies in the one system.

Designed to provide renewable energy security to The Sonoma Wine Company facility in the Napa Valley, the “cogeneration” solar plant will supply 272 kilowatt hours of electricity.

The plant works on a conventional solar thermal design – large mirrors concentrate sunlight onto photovoltaic solar panels which then convert it into electricity. But the Cogenra plant also gathers heat and use it to boil water, much like standard solar hot water systems.

By combining the two technologies, says CEO Dr. Gilad Almogy, “our solution produces five times more energy and three times the greenhouse gas reductions over traditional solar offerings. This is a very significant milestone for Cogenra as we bring our first project online in California’s wine country and toast to a bright future with solar cogeneration. [This] technology merges the best photovoltaic and solar thermal technologies to meet two valuable industrial needs, low cost heat and electricity.”

Cogenra is a startup by venture capitalist Vinod Khosla of cleantech firm Khosla Ventures, of which Tony Blair is chief environmental advisor.

“Technological innovation is the key to mitigating climate change; though clean technologies must make economic sense. Because Cogenra has achieved a cost-effective approach, the environmental benefits of solar cogeneration have the potential for true global impact,” said Mr. Blair.