Ausra said Wednesday it had raised $60.6 million for research and to finish building a 5-megawatt power plant in California.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company develops solar-thermal technologies that use flat glass reflectors to direct the sun's heat to steel pipes that boil the water inside. The steam is then piped to a turbine to generate electricity.

Investors include KERN Partners, Generation Investment Management, Starfish Ventures, Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Ausra received "more than $40 million" from Khosla and Kleiner last year (see Ausra Raises $40M from Concentrating Solar-Thermal).

In June, Ausra opened its first production center in North America – a 130,000-square-foot factory in Las Vegas – to produce solar reflectors. The plant also will make absorber tubes and other parts for building power plants.

The factory is supplying components for a 177-megawatt plant Ausra is building in central California. The company will operate the plant and sell the electricity to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (see Ausra to Build 177-Megawatt Solar-Thermal Plant).

PG&E and other utilities have turned to solar-thermal power developers to help them meet renewable power mandates from their state governments. California requires its public utilities to provide 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010.

PG&E has a deal to buy power from a 900-megawatt solar-thermal plant being developed by BrightSource, while Southern California Edison plans to buy power from a 245-megawatt solar-thermal plant under development by eSolar (see California to Get more Solar-Thermal).

Ausra plans to use part of the new funding to complete the 5-megawatt power plant near Bakersfield, Calif., the company said. Ausra began building the plant in March and expects to launch operations this month, reported the Bakersfield Californian.

In addition to developing power plants, Ausra also peddles its steam-generation technology to operators of oil refineries, as well as to food and paper-processing plants.