Weekly Intelligence Brief: March 19 - 26

This week’s CSP Today news brief includes BrightSource Energy, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; Australian Solar Institute; Solar Millennium; California Energy Commission.

BrightSource announces IPO

Oakland, California-based solar thermal power specialist BrightSource Energy plans to raise up to $182.5m in a public stock offering.

According to the company’s filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, BrightSource plans to issue 6.9 million shares plus up to 1.35 million shares to its underwriters at a price between $21 to $23 per share.

The company, which filed a registration statement on Form S-1 with the Commission in April last year, said that for the years ended December 31, 2010 and 2011, it incurred net losses of $71.6 million and $111.0 million. Overall, it has incurred losses of approximately $288.2 million from its inception through December 31, 2011.

Through its project companies, BrightSource has 13 executed and outstanding long-term power purchase agreements, or PPAs, to deliver approximately 2.4 GW, of installed capacity to two of the largest electric utilities in the US, Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Southern California Edison. The company believes these PPAs represent one of the largest utility-scale solar pipelines in the US and should provide it with a significant revenue opportunity between 2012 and 2016.  


Solar Oasis big dish project secures funding

Australia's 40MW dish project has signed off on a crucial grant, setting the utility-scale concentrated solar power project into motion.

The 40MW solar thermal “Big Dish” project planned for the Australian city of Whyalla took a major step forward this week after the Solar Oasis consortium signed a funding deed with the Australian government for a $A60 million grant.

The deed was crucial for the project to move forward and finalise funding arrangements with equity partners and financiers. The grant was first awarded nearly two years ago under the government’s Renewable Energy Demonstration Program.

The Solar Oasis consortium comprises two development companies, National Power and Sustainable Power Partners, as well as Wizard Power, which bought the unique solar dish technology from the Australian National University, where it was originally developed.

The project will comprise around 330 “big dish” solar thermal concentrators, which each have 500 sq m of curved mirrors capable focusing energy on a receiver and capable of generating steam with temperatures in excess of 2000C.


Australia accelerates solar energy technology deployment

The Australian solar industry received a boost last week with the announcement of close to A$12 million Australian Solar Institute (ASI) Round 3 funding to accelerate solar energy technology development.

Australia’s Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, announced the funding round last week.

ASI Investment Director Olivia Coldrey said the Institute is further supporting industry to develop solar technologies through new strategic investment. Ms Coldrey said this announcement includes ASI funding for a diverse range of solar technologies, particularly concentrating solar power technologies.

The list of ASI Round 3 (March 2012) projects includes Vast Solar (validation of performance modelling for 1.2MWth solar array with high temperature receiver and integrated thermal storage. ASI contribution: $437,243, Total project value: $1,261,160).

RayGen Resources’ Central Receiver CPV Pilot Project, Stage 2, aims to demonstrate the world’s first pre-commercial pilot of a central receiver CSP system that uses photovoltaic energy conversion. ASI contribution: $1,750,000, Total project value: $3,636,952.

CSIRO’s evaluation and demonstration of hybridisation of CST with carbon capture and storage has attracted an ASI contribution of $667,500 (total project value: $1,855,000).

Chromasun’s pilot rooftop CST and CPV-T microconcentrator Systems attracted an ASI contribution of $3,461,677 (Total project value: $9,263,370). Chromasun will partner with the Futuris Group of Companies to develop and establish an Australian pilot manufacturing capability for the Chromasun Micro-Concentrator (MCT) concentrating solar thermal (CST) product).

The Barbara Hardy Institute, University of South Australia is developing high temperature phase change storage systems and a test facility, which has attracted an ASI contribution of $689,500  (total project value: $2,380,629).


Solar Millennium divests stakes in two companies

German solar thermal power specialist Solar Millennium’s insolvency administrator, Volker Böhm, has sold additional investments of Solar Millennium AG to investors.

Schoeller Renewables, headquartered in Pullach im Isartal, has acquired Solar Millennium’s shares in PV Power Holding, headquartered in Erlangen. Solar Millennium had a 50% holding in the company, which develops photovoltaic projects in Italy.

Solar Millennium’s shares in Blue Tower, headquartered in Herten, were also sold. Around 75% of the company was held by Solar Millennium. Blue Tower markets’ Blue-Tower technology is used to extract carbon-neutral gas through decomposition of biomass. The buyer is Concord Blue Engineering, headquartered in Düsseldorf.

The development emerged following the recent initiation of insolvency proceedings for Solar Millennium. The Amtsgericht [Local Court of] Fürth initiated the insolvency proceedings. The court appointed Böhm, a lawyer from Nuremberg, as insolvency administrator.


CEC approves Public Interest Energy Research report

The California Energy Commission has approved the 2011 Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Annual Report, a summary of the programme’s achievements over the past year.

PIER, which is termed as one of the nation’s premier state-funded energy research, development, and demonstration programmes, is considered vital to increasing the California’s renewable energy portfolio standard. The PIER programme provides funding for research and development projects that help bring to market energy technologies.

In total, 111 electricity projects were initiated in the past year with nearly US$48 million invested by PIER in energy research. Matching funds from private and federal sources, including American Reinvestment and Recovery Act stimulus funds, added more than $532 million. The investments made in these projects have resulted in more than 5,530 jobs in California during the first quarter of 2011.

To support California’s goal of meeting 33% of electrical needs with renewable energy by 2020, the PIER programme also invested in research to advance solar, wind, and other renewable electricity.


Australia’s solar share increasing

A report released by Australian government’s Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism revealed that Australia’s solar share has grown by an annual average of 21% for the past five years.

According to the report, Energy in Australia 2012, solar thermal water heating has been the predominant form of solar energy use to date, but electricity generation is increasing through the deployment of PV and concentrating solar thermal technologies.

However, solar energy still has a way to go before breaking into the mainstream energy mix. Solar accounted for only 0.1% of total electricity generation in Australia in 2009–10 and 0.2% of Australia’s energy mix in 2009-10.

In 2009–10, renewable energy contributed around 8% of energy used in electricity generation, with around two-thirds of this sourced from hydroelectricity.

The report highlighted that relatively high capital costs remain the primary limitation to the widespread adoption of solar.   

One of the key factors influencing the location of large-scale solar power plants in Australia is the cost of connection to the electricity grid. This creates the challenge of maximising the access to solar radiation while minimising project costs.