NTR's Tessera Solar is scrambling to raise cash for a pair of multibillion-dollar plants in California — or face the prospect of losing the chance to prove the value of its technology..
That would deal a significant blow to Tessera, which is trying to promote the "Sun Catcher" technology owned by sister company Stirling Energy Systems.
Two sources with knowledge of the twin projects, which together will cost more than $4 billion to build, say potential buyers are inquiring about buying the project land and accompanying approvals and licenses, but then replacing Tessera's technology with their own, preferred solar systems.
If Tessera concedes, it would throw into question the future of a company that has been working to prove the fledgling Sun Catcher technology works on a massive scale.
Conceivably, Tessera still could find a partner interested in supporting its technology. Or it could sell all or part of one plant, allowing it to devote more resources to the second.
Tessera's projects, a 664-megawatt plant east of Barstow and a 709-megawatt plant just north of the border with Mexico, have made it through the years-long permitting process, and have contracts with utilities to purchase the plants' output.
The company just doesn't have the cash to build the plants. This month, parent company and Irish infrastructure group NTR told investors it had written down the value of its solar development business by 96 million euros ($127 million).
In Tessera's system, dishes known as Sun Catchers concentrate sunlight onto a heat exchanger that produces pressured gas, powering an electricity-generating engine.
Other solar companies are looking at the sites as an opportunity to piggyback on the existing permits and change the technology to something they are familiar with, such as traditional photovoltaic solar panels, analysts and other people familiar with the situation say.
JUMPING THROUGH HOOPS
Asian companies are actively looking for markets for their solar panels and could partner with a developer to build a photovoltaic plant on a Tessera site, analysts say.
That has been a tried-and-true tactic for U.S. solar-panel makers like First Solar Inc, which has bought developers ranging from OptiSolar to NextLight, and SunPower, which this year bought European plant builder SunRay.