Solar Firm BrightSource Raising $100M

Mon Feb 14, 2011 4:46pm EST

Updated. Turns out building massive solar farms in the desert takes a massive amount of funding. BrightSource Energy, which develops solar projects that use the sun’s heat to produce electricity for utilities, is in the process of raising a $100 million round, according to a filing. BrightSource has closed almost $90 million of the round and is still looking to draw in the remaining $10 million.

BrightSource has been on an all-out fundraising mission over the past few months. The company set out to raise $215.5 million in equity and options and closed about $176 million of that in summer 2010, according to a filing. That was one of the biggest fundraising rounds in all of VC last year.

At the time, the round was led by Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Morgan Stanley and VantagePoint Venture Partners, and included new investor Alstom (a provider of equipment and services for power generation), which will become “one of the main shareholders” in BrightSource, the company told us. The finance arm of construction giant Bechtel has also taken an equity stake in BrightSource’s first solar project, Ivanpah.

Keely Wachs, a spokesperson for BrightSource Energy, told us last summer, “We are well capitalized, and we are focused on getting our project permitted and financed.” I’m waiting to hear back with more details on this latest $100 million funding, but clearly, it will help the company move toward getting its queue of projects permitted and financed. BrightSource has also been rumored to be planning to go public, but not for another two to three years, so this $100 million round will help the company grow in the run up to an IPO.

Update: Wachs says that BrightSource has now raised a total of $420 million in corporate equity to date.

BrightSource is busy working on getting its inaugural 392-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System constructed and providing solar power. Ivanpah received the approval of the California Energy Commission and the federal Bureau of Land Management last year. BrightSource planned to start construction on Ivanpah by the end of 2010, and expects to complete the project it in 2013. In October, power company NRG Energy said it would invest $300 million into the Ivanpah solar farm over three years and would partner with BrightSource to construct, own and operate Ivanpah.

That BrightSource is able to raise so much private equity isn’t all that surprising. The Department of Energy announced a $1.37 billion loan guarantee for BrightSource to build its Ivanpah project. The loan guarantee will translate into a loan from the U.S. Treasury’s Federal Financing Bank. The loan guarantee program can provide up to 80 percent of a project’s cost.

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Image courtesy of BrightSource.

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