While “the boring stuff,” — permitting and siting solar plants and transmission lines — might cause the biggest hurdles for Oakland, Calif.-based solar thermal startup BrightSource, the company doesn’t seem to have any trouble bringing in big backers. According to the New York Times, BrightSource will announce on Wednesday that the finance arm of construction giant Bechtel has taken an equity stake in the company’s first group of solar thermal plants called the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. Bechtel will provide the construction and engineering for the solar projects, which will sell solar power to California utilities Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison.
The Ivanpah solar farms, which will be built near the Nevada border to the west of Ivanpah Dry Lake, are some of the first in the queue of projects being reviewed by the California Energy Commission and the Bureau of Land Management. The long approval process from the state and federal regulators are holding up the projects more than anything else. “We’re in year two of [what was anticipated would be] a one year project,” said BrightSource CEO John Woolard at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas earlier this year.
Financing doesn’t seem to be a problem, however. The size of Bechtel’s investment was undisclosed, but BrightSource has already raised $160 million total from a long list of investors including Google.org, BP Alternative Energy, StatoilHydro Venture, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Morgan Stanley, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Chevron Technology Ventures.
BrightSource has the right partner if it wants to get the plants built as soon as the projects are approved — Bechtel’s massive construction and engineering forces have over 44,000 employees, in over 25 countries, and the company delivered revenues of $31.4 billion in 2008. BrightSource hopes that its Ivanpah solar projects will be approved by early 2010.