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America’s 3 Best Solar Private Startups who could become multibagger stocks like First Solar post IPO

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America currently has a massive number number of startups in the clean energy industry and a lot of them in the fastest growing green industry that is the solar sector.However like startups in all industries a lot of them will fail,some will sell themselves to others like Heliovolt,Ausra while a few will make it really big making a fortune through IPOs for their PE investors and owners.One or two will make fortunes for those who invest early as well like First Solar.Note First Solar despite numerous ups and downs is still up more than 450% from its IPO price five years ago.It won’t be the last either as the solar energy pros are increasing relative to the cons.So despite the strong competition in the solar industry where numerous companies and technologies are jostling in the more than $70 billion global market,one or two of the smart ones will become huge winners like Intel or Microsoft. Three of them are currently leading the pack while a few others have got a reasonable chance of success as well though they need to prove more like Thin Film Companies Stion,Nanosolar and Miasole.Some of the more hyped ones like Solyndra have gone on a slimming down mode and might make a comeback though it will be tough.There are some others in stealth mode which may become big also.But here is the list of the Four Best Solar Startups in the Solar Electronics,Solar Panels and Solar Thermal Sectors.

Brightsource Energy

Brightsource Energy,the Solar Thermal Startup has been making huge progress getting high profile investors and managing a $1.37 billion DOE grant for its Ivanpah 392 MW Solar Thermal Power Plant.The Company has managed to get its billion dollar Ivanpah Project financed through equity investments from NRG Energy and Google.It is now looking set to do an IPO which  would allow its Stock to List and gain further funds for expansion in USA,China and India.Note I don’t think Solar Thermal Technology is managing to compete effectively with the fast declining costs of Solar Photovoltaic Technology.However there still exists a niche area for Solar Thermal Companies and Technology.Note there are a number of Solar Thermal Companies fighting for the No.1 Position which includes giants like Siemens,Areva,Abengoa and startups like eSolar.Which one of these companies will be succesful in the face of the Solar PV Onslaught is a matter of debate.However Brightsource has certainly stole a march through smart funding.

Brightsource Energy Technology

BrightSource Energy’s proprietary LPT 550 energy system uses heliostats (mirrors) to focus Solar Energy to a Power Tower.The Heat in the Power Tower is converted to Steam which powers Steam Turbines just like a conventional Thermal Power Plant.Thousands of Heliostats are controlled by Computers and they Track the Movement of the Sun throughout the Day to maximize the Power Output.Note most of the top Management of Brightsource is drawn from the Luz Industris which built the massive 354 MW SEGs Solar Thermal Plant in Los Angeles in the 1980s and which is still the largest Solar Thermal Power Plant in the world.LUZ II was founded by Mr. Arnold Goldman, who was also the founder of the original Luz.In December 2008, Luz II changed its name to BrightSource Industries (Israel), Ltd. (BSII)

Brightsource has no commercial CSP Plant working till now though it has a pilot plant called Solar Energy Development Center (SEDC) in Israel with 4 MW capacity.

Brightsource Energy Investors

BrightSource Energy has raised more than $300 million in financing from top companies worldwide.Here is a list of those companies.

  1. BP
  2. Alstom
  3. Google
  4. Statoil
  5. Chevron.

The company has also got PE and VC investors like Draper Fisher,Vantage Point,Calstrs,Blackriver and DBL

Ivanpah Solar Thermal Plant

The 392 MW Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) is being built in  California’s Mojave Desert.The Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) Project is being builtapproximately 50 miles northwest of Needles, California (about five miles from the California-Nevada border) on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management.The complex is comprised of three separate plants to be built in phases between 2010 and 2013, and will use BrightSource Energy’s LPT 550 technology.

Initial Public Offering (IPO) Plans

In 2010, BrightSource hired Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs to begin preparations for a public offering that is likely to happen in 2011. Its fourth round of equity financing in May netted $150 million, bringing total equity financing to $330 million to date.There has been no official word about the IPO or when the stock listing might happen.However the support of Google and NextEra plus the DOE Loan Guarantee should really push forward the date of a Brightsource IPO.


eSolar is a US based Solar Thermal Technology Startup which has managed to raise $182 million from top VCs and investors and managed to win contracts to build solar power plants using its proprietary Power Tower Technology in the US,China and India.Note like Brightsource Energy,eSolar is one of the most promising CSP startups which has managed to get funding and contracts,it now needs to execute to deliver on its potential.Note Solar Thermal Companies are facing a huge assault from Solar PV Technology where costs are declining rapidly.

eSolar Technology

Solar is using the Power Tower Technology same as Brightsource Technology which differs from the parabolic trough mainstream CSP Technology.Note Parabolic Trough Technology is used by most of the established Spanish players like Abengoa.It is also the Technology used in the 354 MW largest solar thermal plant in the US built in the 1980s by Luz.In this technology thousands of heliostats (mirrors) reflect the solar light onto a “Power Tower” where water or salt is heated up.This heat energy is then transferred into Electrical Energy through standard Steam Turbines and Generators used in Gas,Nuclear and Thermal Power Plants.

eSolar Products

A 46 MW eSolar power unit consists of 12 towers (each with its own north-south heliostat sub-field), a turbine generator set, and a steam condenser. 46 MW power units fit on approximately 100 hectares (250 acres).A small and mass-manufactured heliostat is the building block of the eSolar solution. eSolar designed the heliostats for deployment in pre-fabricated “heliostat sticks”.A field of sun-tracking heliostats reflects solar heat to a thermal receiver mounted atop a central power tower. The focused heat boils water within the thermal receiver and produces steam. The plant pipes the steam from each thermal receiver and aggregates it at the turbine, powering a power generator.Note the Steam Turbine and Condensors are being source from General Electric for its 5 MW pilot plant in California.

eSolar Investors

  1. NRG Energy is one of the biggest private utlities in the USA  with 24 GW of power generation capacity.It has become a big players in the Renewable Energy field buying solar power plants outright or partially from Brightsource,First Solar and Sunpower.(Customer as well)
  2. Acme Group (Customer as well)
  3. Quercus Trust
  4. Oak Investment Parnters is a big US based VC fund
  5. Google
  6. Idealab

Note eSolar unlike Brightsource has not managed to get a power equipment heavyweight like Bechtel or Alstom to invest or parnter with it.Note startups like eSolar can really do with the expertise and project managment experience of these huge MNC conglomerates to successfully build large solar thermal power plants.

eSolar Stock IPO Prospects

eSolar has not been rumored to come out with an IPO soon.Like other solar startups like Enphase Energy it is holding its cards close to its chest.Anyway without a running commercial plant or any concrete plans of future profitability or revenues,its hard to value the company based on technology alone.Though some Green Startups have managed to do an IPO without any profits like A123 Systems,Gevo,Codexis many of those stocks  have crashed after their IPO.


Suniva is the only crystalline solar Solar Companies in the US which has been able to survive and thrive in recent times.Sunpower too has resurrected itself through strategic JVs and acquisitions.The main reason for the decline of the US  solar companies has been the severe competition from the low cost Chinese Solar Industry.This has made companies like Energy Conversion Devices and Evergreen Solar shut down US factories  and look towards Mexico and China to build low cost factories.However Suniva has managed to face all these competitive threats quite successfully and is looking to expand capacity in the US by building a 400 MW factory.The company even refused a DOE Loan Guarantee saying that the terms were too onerous.The company has manged to raise more then $130 million in equity and has won contracts to supply high efficiency solar cells to the Asian companies which is a first.Suniva differentiates itself through its technology which allows the production of high efficiency monocrystalline solar cells at lower cost.Note Sunpower makes the highest efficiency cells in the world in the range of 22-24% but its cost structure is too high.Suniva is looking to challenge the Taiwanese Cell Producers by marrying higher efficiency with lower cost.

Suniva Products

Suniva is focused on the design and manufacture of photovoltaic solar cells and high efficient solar panels marketed as the ARTisun® product series.Suniva does not produce solar panels on its own which it outsource to Chinese module makers.It concentrates its energies in production of solar cells and marketing of  the solar cells and panels under the Artisun brandname.

Suniva Solar Panels

Suniva’s has a capacity of 170 MW located in Norcross, Georgia in 2010 after starting with a small 32 MW Solar Cell Factory.The company sells Solar Panels ART245-60-3-1 which are based on the monocrystalline silicon technology.The Company only lists this Solar Module on its website which has  245 Watts of Power Rating and is composed of 60 Solar Cells.

Suniva Technology

Suniva was spun out of Georgia Institute of Technology’s University Center of Excellence in Photovoltaics (UCEP)  using  the work of Dr. Ajeet Rohatgi in 2007 who is the founder and director of the photovoltaic (PV) research program.Suniva produces 17+% – 20% efficient cells. Currently, Suniva is producing 20%+ in the lab, and the world’s highest commercially available cell efficiency in full-scale low-cost production, at 19%.Suniva’s plan is to increase cell efficiency to 20+% by 2011 using low cost processes and no exotic materials.Note most of the monocrystalline solar cell producers have cell efficiencies of between 16-18%.

Ion Implantation Differentiator (compared to normal Diffusion Processes)

it is working with Varian Semiconductor to use ion implantation of boron in the manufacture of solar cells.  ARTisun Star is scheduled for production in the first quarter of 2012 with targeted cell efficiencies that will approach 20 percent.It is already using ion implantation of phosphorous on p-type wafers to achieve 19 percent efficiency on its second generation ARTisun Select cells

Suniva IPO Prospects

Suniva is in need of funds to build a 400 MW factory in Michigan but after having rejected DOE,Suniva’s plans of expanding capacity seems fuzzy currently.Note Evergreen has used generous subsidies in capital,loans and land to build a factory in China.Suniva which seems to use its American origins as a USP might not go the Evergreen way.Note the 2 biggies of US Solar Industry Sunpower and First Solar manufacture most of their Solar Panels outside the US.Suniva has no plans for IPO but a Stock Listing might give it the funds required though valuations being given to solar companeis are not that great.


Abhishek Shah

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