One of Silicon Valley’s most ambitious “green” start-ups looks like it’s about to join the consolidation that’s sweeping through the solar industry.

Ausra, which was backed by more than $90m in equity from blue-blooded venture capital firms like Kleiner Perkins and  Khosla Ventures, is in talks with three potential acquirers, according to a person familiar with the situation. Possibilities range from a full buy-out of the firm to a majority investment, this person says.

Originally from Australia (hence the name), Ausra’s founders were lured to California two years ago by the flood of VC money that was pouring into solar at the time. Their company is founded on concentrated solar thermal (CST) technology, which uses mirrors to focus the sun’s rays in order to heat water and drive a turbine. Read more

For a symbol of the new, diminished expectations of the once swaggering US “greentech” industry, look no further than Ausra.

With blue-chip backers like Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins, Ausra was one of those Silicon Valley companies that thought on a grand scale. Using a variety of techniques that included low-cost ways of producing and installing vast arrays of mirrors, it dreamt of building and operating utility-scale solar thermal power plants.

As we reported early on in the financial crisis (and the company went on to confirm earlier this year), Ausra changed course and decided its future lay in selling its technology to established utilities rather than becoming a power producer itself. As the project finance markets seized up, only a company with the balance sheet of a utility could hope to fund such ambitious projects, though Ausra said its decision reflected over strategic priorities as well. Read more