The US solar sector just got a big boost in California. BrightSource Energy and Pacific Gas and Electric Co., a young utility company from Oakland and just inked the largest solar deal in the history.
The companies plan to partner on seven new solar thermal plants using technology pioneered by Brightsource with up to 1,310 MW of capacity – enough to power for 530,000 homes. This deal replaces an earlier 900 MW agreement between the two companies estimated to be worth up to $3 billion.
Brightsource is on a roll, landing another contract just three months ago to supply an additional 1,300 MW to Southern California Edison. Up until this week, that agreement held the previous record for the largest solar contract in the world.
The gold rush in solar power installation is largely due to a California law requiring utilities to provide 20% of their energy from renewables by the end of 2010.
This latest deal will see Brightsource build seven facilities in the southern California desert starting with a tower and mirror array in the Ivanpah dry lake bed in San Bernardino County scheduled to come online in 2011. These installations will use mirrors to focus solar heat to boil water and generate power using steam turbines.
While many solar companies have been hit hard by the credit crisis, Brightsource has an impressive track record of securing capital in one of the worst lending markets in history. The company has raised more than $160 million, including a $115 million Series C round announced last May.
Investors include Google.org, BP Alternative Energy, StatoilHydro Venture, Black River, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Morgan Stanley, DBL Investors, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Chevron Technology Ventures.
Their business partners are clearly impressed with both their financials and technology.
"We are continuing to contract with a variety of renewable developers - that hasn't changed at all," said PG&E spokeswoman Jennifer Zerwer. "But we did decide to renegotiate with BrightSource because they have made strides with demonstrating their technology, moving forward with their (government) permits and getting financing."
The Governator is also onside with one his state’s brightest solar sector stars.
"By committing to increase the amount of solar power, this announcement serves as more evidence that reliable, renewable and pollution-free technology is here to stay, and sunshine will eventually power hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses across our Golden State," said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a statement.
As a venture backed private company, Brightsource has not yet issued an IPO, but was named one of the top ten solar companies by Greentech.
Stay tuned for more big renewable deals in California as utilitiy companies scramble to meet their legal requirements before 2011.
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