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BrightSource Energy raises record $115m Series C round

The VantagePoint-backed solar energy company has raised fresh capital from a bevy of new investors, just two months after landing the largest-ever US government solar contracts.

Solar power developer BrightSource Energy has raised a record $115 million (€74 million) financing round, attracting a new slate of prominent venture investors.

Google.org, BP Alternative Energy, StoilHydro Venture and Black River were new investors, while all of the company’s existing investors, including Morgan Stanley, DBL Investors, Draper Fisher Jurveston and Chevron Technology Ventures, also participated.

“This enables us to fund all of our activities in an aggressive manner. We want to move more quickly, and this gives us the resources to do that,” Charles Ricker, BrightSource senior vice president, told PEO.

The Oakland, California-based company, which designs and constructs large-scale power plants for

BrightSource solar plant

wholesale distribution, had previously raised roughly $50 million in two separate rounds led by Silicon Valley-based venture group VantagePoint Venture Partners.
 
The conclusion of the latest fundraising comes just two months after BrightSource landed contracts from California utility Pacific Gas and Electric to build up to five solar power plants that will power over half a million households.

If PG&E picks up options on two of the five contracts, they will amount to the largest contracts ever awarded to a solar energy company in US history.

BrightSource is the reformed successor of Luz International, an Israeli-based solar firm which built several plants in California in the 1980s. Although the plants still exist, Luz itself collapsed in the early 1990’s as oil prices plunged and government subsidies dried up.

The company relies on the solar-thermal “power tower” model, in which a pool of curved mirrors reflects sunlight on a single water pipe, which in turn generates steam that moves a turbine.

BrightSource is led by former Luz chief and VantagePoint partner John Woollard.

VantagePoint managing director Stephan Dolezalek hinted that BrightSource may use some of its fresh capital and strategic relationships with BP and StoilHydro to expand internationally.

“We are going to become an ever more resource-constrained world, and VantagePoint is looking into businesses that address these demands,” Doelzalek recently told sister publication PEI.

Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm which has launched an investment programme for renewable energy, has become an increasingly active player in the cleantech venture scene. To date, it has made $10 million commitments to solar power companies eSolar and Makani Power.

“We are making investments, really, of two sorts,” Dan Reicher, Google.org’s head of Climate and Energy Initiatives, recently told Private Equity International. “One is investing in technology companies that offer some major improvements in how we produce electricity from renewables.” The other is backing high-risk projects that might not be as palatable to the traditional investment community. Google said it will deploy several hundred million dollars on the initiative.

An in-depth article on Brightsource is featured in this month's PEI.