BrightSource Energy has contracted Siemens to build a 123-megawatt solar-powered turbine generator for its massive Mojave Desert solar-thermal projects, the Oakland, Calif.-based startup announced today. Having raised more than $160 million (including$115 million from Google.org, BP, and other big investors in Series C financing last May) and snagged a deal to sell California utility PG&E up to 900 megawatts of solar power, BrightSource apparently decided not to let delays in the state approval process slow it down.
Building a steam turbine generator — which converts hot steam into mechanical work — takes years. So while BrightSource plans to begin construction on its Ivanpah Solar Power Complex in 2009 if California regulators give the green light, the company does not expect the Siemens generator (the companies say it will be the largest of its kind ever built) to arrive until 2011 — mere months before the company plans to begin supplying electricity to utilities. That leaves very little room for error if the company is to meet its deadlines.
“It takes time and patience and a lot of planning ahead to make all of this work well,” John Woolard, BrightSource CEO and a partner at VantagePoint Venture Partners, the startup’s lead investor, told the San Francisco Business Times in August. That’s when the Bureau of Land Management ushered BrightSource to the front of the line for approval of applications to build utility-scale solar projects in the federally-managed desert. “Fortunately,” he said, “this is something we’re not bad at.”