Well, it was inevitable that BrightSource would have to find money in the private sector after its failed attempt at an IPO last year, and it did just that pulling in $35 million from a group that includes Chevron and Goldman Sachs. The company is struggling to make solar thermal technology relevant as the plunging cost of solar photovoltaic panels has created a nasty competitive environment.
To BrightSource’s credit, it is coming up on completion of the massive Ivanpah solar farm, which is a major milestone for the company. More than anything, I continue to have concerns that solar thermal is just a less mature technology than solar PV. And while the technology remains promising, particularly if new tech could come online like molten salt to build in some energy storage, it still has some engineering tweaking to go. For example, the Martin solar thermal plant in Florida was expected to produce power for 11,000 homes but real deployment has put that number closer to 2,000. (NextEra developed the Martin Solar Energy Center, which utilizes solar parabolic trough technology.)
I haven’t counted out solar thermal. I just think it’s got some competitive problems and that the tech hasn’t been perfected. Which all makes me wonder if a solar thermal company would be a good buy right now, given that the valuations would be reasonable and you’d really be buying the last five years of lessons learned.