BrightSource Energy — the Oakland-based builder and operator of California solar thermal plants — has filed for a $250 million IPO. The S-1 doesn’t say how many of the 94.3 million shares it plans to sell
According to its S-1, the company was losing $40+ million/year but last year losses rose to $71.6 million with cumulative net losses of $177.3 million. The company did end the year with $37.8 million in cash equivalents on hand. But the S-1 says “executing on our pipeline and expanding our business requires significant additional capital.”
The S-1 said that it‘s signed 14 contracts with PG&E and/or SCE to deliver 2.6 GW of solar capacity. The first of these is the Ivanpah project, with a gross capacity of 392 MW on 3,600 acres near Baker in the Mojave Desert, on the I-15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
The S-1 says this is the first of the company’s projects, with construction begun in October 2010, the first phase due in 2013 and the remainder in 2014. The project received a $1.6b loan guaranteed by DOE, as well as $300 m in equity from NRG Solar, $168m from Google and $130m from BrighSource.
Veteran solar scribe Ucilia Wang sees this as a multi-million dollar bet on Ivanpah — and that seems like a good way to interpret it. The success of Ivanpah (and Coalinga Solar-to-Steam) are essential to getting financing for the remaining projects.
Some have questioned whether solar thermal (such as the BrightSource solar tower) can be cost competitive with PV in the long run. That’s not the real question: can BrightSource execute on its current plans (without internal or external delays) and deliver the contracted energy reliably?
Assuming there are no loopholes in the contracts, the Power Purchase Agreements are (by design) bankable revenue sources — representing the desperation of California utilities with the RPS gun to their head, buying from (thus far) the only gigawatt-scale game in town. Still, it’s hard to see how a successful IPO for BrightSource helps any of the PV companies, or for that matter those of the solar thermal operators who lag BrightSource by several years.