BrightSource Raises Another $80 Million for Concentrating Solar

In a time when solar thermal is a hard sell in the face of low solar PV prices, BrightSource has managed to close another round of equity financing, this time $80 million.

The round brings BrightSource’s total raise to over $615 million, and will enable expansion around the world.

Power generator Alstom and VantagePoint Capital Partners led the round, with participating investors such as DFJ, CalSTRS, DBL Investors, Goldman Sachs, Chevron Technology Ventures and BP Ventures.

"Strengthening our partnership with BrightSource Energy enhances our development towards providing fully integrated solar thermal power plants. This new investment is a further step in our commitment to the solar thermal power market, and paves the way to provide cost-efficient and reliable carbon free power to our customers," says Jérôme Pécresse, Alstom Renewable Power President. 

BrightSource and Alstom are building solar concentrating plants togther in various parts of the world, including India, Australia, Africa and the Mediterranean Ring. They are also collaborating on solar research and development related to thermal storage and hybridization with fossil fuels.

Brightsource is close to completing the 377 MW Ivanpah plant in California, which will provide electricity to 140,000 homes by the end of next year. The company received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy for the project, under its now-infamous program (read – Solyndra).

Its next two projects, the 500 MW Rio Mesa and 500 MW Hidden Hills projects, are currently under review by the California Energy Commission and expected to receive a permitting decision in 2013. Brightsource bought those projects from now-bankrupt Solar Trust of America.

BrightSource cancelled its planned IPO in April, because of volatile market conditions.

Concentrating solar has the potential to supply 11.3% of the world’s electricity by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

But one competitor has decided to exit the field. This week, Siemens pulled out of the solar thermal business, saying it can’t compete with low prices for solar PV.

The division is up for sale, but the company will continue selling related products such as steam turbines, generators, and control systems for solar plants.

"Solar isn’t a core business or core competency of Siemens. The growth prospects for these markets have deteriorated such that there is really no reason to remain active here," Ingo-Martin Schachel, an analyst at Commerzbank AG, told Bloomberg.

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