BrightSource pulls its solar IPO plan

It’s not meant to be after all. Solar power plant developer BrightSource Energy plans to withdraw its IPO because of poor market conditions, the company said Wednesday night.

The Oakland, Calif., company had previously planned to do the IPO this week. The company filed the S-1 registration a year ago, and in a March regulatory filing it said it was set to sell 6.9 million shares at $21 to $23 per share.

The decision to ditch the IPO plan reflects poorly on the prospect of solar companies in general to attract interest from investors. An analyst told Dow Jones Wednesday that BrightSource’s IPO wasn’t getting a lot of interest partly because so many solar companies have posted losses and suffered a big drop in their stock prices over the past year, even though they were mostly equipment manufactures rather project developers.

The demise of Solyndra and the criticism about a federal loan guarantee that Solyndra received – BrightSource got a loan guarantee from the same program for a power plant it’s building – also have made solar stocks less than desirable. If BrightSource was able to make its market debut, it would have been a big vote of confidence for not only the company’s technology and future but for the solar sector overall.

BrightSource’s IPO would’ve been the second solar IPO in two weeks. Enphase Energy, which makes power conversion electronics for solar panels, made its public market debut on the Nasdaq late last month. Before that, there was a drought of U.S. solar IPOs for over a year. Incidentally, Solyndra also withdrew a plan for an IPO in June 2010.

“While we received significant interest from potential investors, the continued market and economic volatility are not optimal conditions for an IPO,” said John Woolard, CEO of BrightSource, in a statement. “As a company, we’ve consistently made decisions in the best interest of our shareholders, employees and customers, and we will continue to do so. Fortunately, we’re in a strong financial position and have the support of world-class investors and partners.”

BrightSource builds power plants using a type of concentrating solar thermal technology that relies on mirrors to direct sunlight onto a water boiler atop of a tower. The steam produced from the process then goes to a turbine to generate electricity. The company is building its first power plant, a 392 MW project in California’s Mojave desert, that is scheduled for completion in 2013. Power from the project will go to Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison.

Photo courtesy of BrightSource Energy