BrightSource Raising $125M for Solar Projects

Solar company BrightSource Energy has upped its latest fundraising goal from $100 million last December to $125 million and plans to use the money for both U.S. projects and international expansion, the company’s spokesman, Keely Wachs, told us Tuesday.

The Oakland, Calif. company has raised roughly $122.5 million in equity and options so far of that round, according to its filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Monday. BrightSource has been working with one of its investors, Alstom, on developing projects in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Alstom, a French power plant equipment supplier, invested $55 million in BrightSource last year.

BrightSource has been an aggressive fundraiser over the past year. It set out to raise $215.5 million and nabbed $176 million by last September. Talks of doing an initial public offering also have been simmering in the past year, though the company has declined to talk about it.

BrightSource, founded in 2006, plans to use the new round of money for its U.S. projects as well, which are clustered in the southwest. The money will be used for projects other than the 392 MW Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System project that began construction in California’s Mojave Desert last October, Wachs told us. The project, once up and running, will use some of the electricity it generates onsite, so it expects to deliver 370 MW to utility customers.

The Ivanpah project, which is made up of three power plants, was one of the nine concentrating solar thermal power projects approved by the California Energy Commission last year. NRG Energy has committed to invest up to $300 million in the project and become the project’s largest stakeholder. The bulk of the project’s funding should come from a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Energy, which offered the $1.37 billion guarantee more than a year ago.

BrightSource can use the guarantee to borrow money from the U.S. Treasury’s Federal Financing Bank, just as many other loan guarantee recipients, such as Abengoa Solar, have done. BrightSource expects to finalize the loan guarantee agreement with the DOE “within the next couple of months,” Wachs said.

The Ivanpah project is moving along as scheduled, and BrightSource expects to complete it in 2013, Wachs said. About two thirds of the power from the project will go to Pacific Gas and Electric while the rest will go to Southern California Edison.

In all, BrightSource plans to build 2.6 GW of power plants to deliver electricity to PG&E and Edison (Ivanpah is part of this commitment). BrightSource’s technology uses flat mirrors called heliostats to concentrate sunlight onto a boiler at the top of a tower to generate steam, which is then piped to run turbines to produce electricity. The company has secured enough land to build 10 GW of power plants in California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. Wachs declined to discuss the next U.S. project, but said the company plans to file papers with the California Energy Commission in the coming months.

Photo courtesy of BrightSource Energy