Sunday, February 1, 2009

BrightSource looks to Obama stimulus for relief, may have to delay construction of California solar plants

BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar Power Complex planned for California could be delayed if the U.S. government's economic stimulus package does not provide incentives to unlock financing for renewable energy projects.

BrightSource Energy Inc, which last year signed contracts with California utility PG&E Corp to provide up to 900 megawatts of solar thermal power, still needs to secure financing for the project, which BrightSource is scheduled to begin constructing in late 2009.

"We should be able to turn dirt over and start construction in the fourth quarter of this year, but big financings don't come in months," BrightSource CEO John Woolard said in an interview with Reuters at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "Depending on what happens out of the stimulus bill, it could get pushed back."

U.S. President Barack Obama's proposed $825 billion economic stimulus plan, which offers incentives for renewable projects, will be critical to jump-starting investment again, Woolard said.

"If you were to wait for private markets to come back completely, you'd be waiting a long time. But if you look at what you can do with the right amount of government support, you could see things happen this year," he said, calling the stimulus package "one of the most important pieces of legislation in renewables, period."

Despite the apparent recent difficulty in obtaining project financing for the Ivanpah Complex, BrightSource has achieved several major milestones in the past year:

  • In March, BrightSource entered into a series of power purchase agreements with PG&E for up to 900MW of electricity. Ivanpah would be California’s first large-scale commercial solar thermal power plant in nearly three decades.
  • In May, BrightSource announced that it had secured $115 million in additional corporate funding from its Series C round of financing, bringing the total the company has raised to date to over $160 million. VantagePoint Venture Partners, the company’s initial investor, led the syndicate, which included, BP Alternative Energy, StatoilHydro Venture and Black River, Morgan Stanley, DBL Investors (formerly a subsidiary of JP Morgan), Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Chevron Technology Ventures.
  • In June, BrightSource dedicated its Solar Energy Development Center (SEDC), an operational solar field that will provide the company with the ability to test equipment, materials and procedures as well as construction and operating methods. The SEDC is located at the Rotem Industrial Park in Dimona, Israel, and is managed by BrightSource Industries Israel (formerly Luz II), the company's wholly-owned Jerusalem-based subsidiary.
  • In December, BrightSource signed an agreement with Siemens for the largest ever fully solar-powered steam turbine generator for its Ivanpah Complex.
  • Last week, BrightSource announced that Andrew Siegelstein has been named General Manager for the company’s subsidiary BrightSource Construction Management Company. Under Siegelstein's leadership, BrightSource Construction Management Company will oversee and manage the construction of BrightSource Energy’s solar energy projects, including the Ivanpah Complex.
BrightSource also seems to be doing better than its competitors, OptiSolar and Ausra. According to reports in Earth2Tech and GreentechMedia, both OptiSolar and Ausra are laying off employees. Ausra, which is backed by high-profile cleantech VCs Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins, is reportedly changing its business plan because of the difficult financing environment and will focus on supplying equipment and building small power plants.

Related Posts:

BrightSource Energy signs contact with Siemens for solar-powered generator

BrightSource Energy planning 1200 MW solar power facility in Nevada

BrightSource / Luz II dedicate Negev Solar Energy Development Center

BrightSource Energy raises $115 million in latest round of funding