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BrightSource snags $80M for its solar thermal farms

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BrightSource Energy has raised more than $80 million in equity financing, capital the company will use to build solar thermal power plants in the U.S. and help it expand into international markets, including India and Australia.

Power generation giant Alstom and VantagePoint Capital Partners led the round. Additional investors included DFJ, CalSTRS, DBL Investors, Goldman Sachs, Chevron Technology Ventures and BP Ventures.

BrightSource and Alstom partnered in 2010 to develop solar power projects in the Mediterranean ring and Africa. Under this latest financing round, the two companies have expanded their partnership to pursue projects in India and Australia. The companies also are working on a series of solar research and development activities focused on thermal storage and hybridization with fossil fuels.

BrightSource's solar thermal power projects use thousands of mirrors to concentrate the sun onto a boiler atop a giant tower. Water is converted to steam and used to drive a turbine, which generates electricity. The company tweaked the design for its proposed 500-megawatt Rio Mesa project, including the use of a dry-cooling and water recycling system, which will use 90 percent less water than competing solar thermal technologies with wet cooling. The Rio Mesa project also will use higher towers, which should allow it to pack more of its sun-tracking mirrors into a smaller area.

BrightSource has had its fair share of hurdles to overcome in the past year.

For instance, BrightSource revealed last October in its amended s-1 filing that the solar-to-team oil recovery project it built for Chevron went way over budget. Its Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System Project in the Mojave desert, a 377-megawatt project being built in partnership with NRG Energy and Google, was downsized because of the concerns about the endangered desert tortoise. And in April, the company withdrew its IPO plans at the last minute.

Despite these headwinds, BrightSource doesn't appear to have problems attracting investors or partners.To date, BrightSource has raised more than $615 million in total equity financing.

Photo: BrightSource Energy

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— By on October 25, 2012, 6:12 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure