Summary:

The rumor has become reality: BrightSource Energy, which is heavily backed by private and public money for its concentrating solar thermal technology, on Friday filed for an initial public offering to raise $250 million.

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The rumor has become reality: BrightSource Energy, which is heavily backed by private and public money for its concentrating solar thermal technology, on Friday filed for an initial public offering to raise $250 million.

BrightSource, based in Oakland, Calif., didn’t disclose the number of shares or share pricing in its filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The IPO plan highlights the capital-intensive business of building solar power plants. BrightSource only announced it had closed a $1.6 billion loan guarantee with the U.S. Department of Energy last week. The guarantee will allow the company to borrow money to help build a 392MW solar farm called Ivanpah in California’s Mojave Desert. Investors in the project also include NRG Energy and Google, which is putting in $168 million.

BrightSource has been in an aggressive fundraising mode over the past year. Last month, it completed a funding round of $201.7 million that included equity and options, according to its SEC filing. It raised about $176 million last year and was the center of speculations that it would go for an IPO soon.

The Ivanpah project is the first commercial solar farm for BrightSource, which has built a 6MW demonstration project in Israel. Lining up financing to build Ivanpah – and completing it – is critical to prove the company’s technology and ability to become a bona fide power plant developer. Founded in 2004, the company’s employees include some who worked on a series of solar thermal power plants in California in the 1980s.

The company uses mirrors called heliostats to concentrate the sun and direct the light to heat up water in a boiler located at the top of a tower. The heated water generates steam to run a turbine and generate electricity. This type of concentrating solar thermal technology is new and is also being developed by other companies such as SolarReserve and Abengoa Solar.

BrightSource reported a net loss of $71.6 million on a revenue of $13.5 million for 2010. In 2009, it recorded a net loss of $43.8 million on a revenue of $11.6 million. In 2008, it posted a net loss of $44.6 million on a revenue of $7.1 million.

Photo courtesy of BrightSource Energy

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