Solar thermal startup BrightSource Energy shelved its year-long plans for an initial public offering late Wednesday amid a turbulent stock market, a challenging year for solar energy companies and tepid interest from investors.
The Oakland-based company issued a press release shortly before 8 p.m. saying it had decided not to pursue its IPO due to "adverse market conditions" and intends to withdraw the S-1 currently on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
"While we received significant interest from potential investors, the continued market and economic volatility are not optimal conditions for an IPO," said CEO John Woolard in a statement. "As a company, we've consistently made decisions in the best interest of our shareholders, employees and customers, and we will continue to do so. Fortunately, we're in a strong financial position and have the support of world-class investors and partners."
BrightSource, which is backed by VantagePoint Venture Partners, first registered with the SEC to begin its IPO process nearly a year ago, and its stock market debut had been eagerly awaited in Silicon Valley and within the clean technology community as a whole.
Rather than the photovoltaic solar panels visible on rooftops across California, BrightSource builds massive solar thermal power projects in desert locations. Along with competitors like Abengoa and SolarReserve, it is a leading player in what's known as Concentrating Solar Power or "CSP." But CSP faces growing competition from photovoltaic solar panels, which have drastically fallen in priceand CSP companies are racing to cut costs. The country is also awash in cheap natural gas, putting further pressure on renewable sources of energy.
BrightSource's pioneering solar thermal technology concentrates the sun's rays with motor-driven, mirror-like "heliostats" and "power towers" that reflect heat to boil water. The steam from the boiling water turns turbines that generate electricity.
The company's flagship project is the massive 392-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System currently under construction on federal land in California's Mojave Desert. When completed in 2013, Ivanpah will be the largest solar thermal power plant in the world, generating enough electricity for about 140,000 homes. The electricity will be sold to PG&E and Southern California Edison.
BrightSource was awarded a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, whose loan program came under fierce attack from House Republicans after Fremont-based Solyndra, which was awarded a $535 million loan guarantee, filed for bankruptcy last year.
Contact Dana Hull at 408-920-2706. Follow her at Twitter.com/danahull.
CEO: John Woolard
What they do: build massive solar thermal power plants using Concentrating Solar Power technology, or CSP. Ivanpah, the company's flagship project, is under construction in California's Mojave Desert and should begin delivering electricity to the grid in 2013.