LOS ANGELES Solar thermal company BrightSource Energy Inc is actively seeking partners in India and China as it looks to expand its reach outside the United States, Chief Executive John Woolard said on Tuesday.
Moving "slowly and deliberately," BrightSource could announce partners in those two nations a year from now, Woolard told the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit in San Francisco.
"We are talking to various large companies over there," Woolard said. "Generally partners that are large, have engineering capabilities and can really deliver on plant construction and get things done."
Woolard's comments came on the same day that First Solar Inc, made the first major foray by a U.S. company into the fast growing Chinese alternative energy sector with plans to build the world's largest solar plant there.
"It shows a few things," Woolard said of the First Solar announcement. "One is that the Chinese are willing to think at a size and scale that is meaningful... and it also shows that the Chinese are ready and willing to look at real projects and real money."
Privately-held BrightSource has picked up big contracts to deliver solar thermal power to California utilities Edison International Inc and PG&E Corp.
Outside the United States, the company is partnering with Macquarie Group Ltd and WorleyParsons on a plant in Australia.
Solar thermal power plants use the sun's heat to create steam that powers a turbine. The thermal plants are typically much larger than those made up of photovoltaic solar panels, which turn sunlight into electricity.
BrightSource's U.S. project, the Ivanpah Solar Power Complex in California's Mojave desert, is expected to provide enough electricity to power 140,000 homes. It will be built in three stages beginning next year.
The company plans to announce the engineering and construction contractor for Ivanpah "very shortly," Woolard said, allowing BrightSource to move on to financing the project and then to begin construction.
Securing the contractor is also one of the "building blocks" for BrightSource to move forward with an initial public offering, Woolard said, though he added that the health of the public markets also was a major consideration.
"Any time you start to think about public offerings you have to think about what the public environment is, and so we're just starting to see a few strong companies contemplate public offerings and IPOs," Woolard said.
"It's as much a question of where the public markets are as where we are," he said, adding that "we try to always be prepared."
(Reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Carol Bishopric)