California Solar Power Company Gets $80 Million in Venture Capital

View of the heliostat field from the tower at BrightSource's Negev site in Israel | Photo: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr/Creative Commons License

It hasn't been the best week for concentrating solar, as industry giant Siemens has announced plans to quit the market entirely in the face of near-impossible competition from the photovoltaic sector. But Oakland-based concentrating solar company BrightSource Energy has just provided a bit of contrary data, with an announcement today that it's secured another round of equity financing totaling more than $80 million dollars.

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"Today's capital raise reflects the important role of our solar thermal power tower technology in meeting the world's growing demand for cost-effective power that is not only clean, but reliable as well," said John Woolard, Chief Executive Officer of BrightSource. "With these funds we will continue to build solar power plants for our U.S. customers, while significantly increasing our presence around the globe."

The French energy and mass transportation company Alstom led the round of investment, along with former MySpace backer VantagePoint Capital Partners, which has made previous investments in BrightSource. Other investors in this round include Draper Fisher Jurvetson, the state teachers' pension fund CalSTRS, DBL Investors, Goldman Sachs, and Chevron Technology Ventures and BP Ventures, subsidiaries of the well-known clean energy companies Chevron and BP.

BrightSource currently has 35 megawatts' worth of projects using its proprietary technology, which surrounds boilers atop power towers with hundreds or thousands of mirrored heliostats. Those projects include a demonstration site in Israel and a facility in Coalinga, California that produces steam to drive extraction of petroleum at an oil field operated by Chevron. The company's Ivanpah Solar electric Generation System, now nearing completion, will generate up to 377 megawatts of solar power from close to 4,000 acres of former desert tortoise habitat adjacent to the Mojave National Preserve. The company has two additional California desert projects -- Hidden Hills near Tecopa, and Rio Mesa southwest of Blythe -- that are now being considered for permitting by the California Energy Commission. The company recently acquired another, the Palen solar energy project near Desert Center, picked up when original project proponent Solar Millennium went out of business as the bottom dropped out from under the utility-scale concentrating solar market.

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