Solar power-plant company SolarReserve of Santa Monica has raised $19.3 million in convertible notes to invest in possible solar power plants and related insurance bonds in South Africa.

All of the company’s prior investors participated in the round, including Santa Monica private equity firm US Renewables Group, Credit Suisse and Pacific Corporate Group of La Jolla, said SolarReserve Chief Executive Kevin Smith.

SolarReserve’s proprietary concentrated solar power plants use an array of mirrors to focus light from the sun into a central tower that is filled with heat-conducting molten salt. That heated molten salt is stored in tanks and used to steam-generate electricity when the power grid demands it.

Developing and building concentrated solar power plants doesn’t come cheap. Since its founding in 2007, SolarReserve has raised $187 million in equity and $54.3 million in debt, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Much of SolarReserve’s future success rests on its first concentrated solar power project, a 110-megawatt plant outside Tonopah, Nev., which is scheduled to begin commercial operations in the next 30 to 45 days. The so-called Crescent Dunes plant cost $900 million to build, financed partly by a Department of Energy loan. It will supply electricity to as many as 75,000 homes in Nevada as part of a 25-year deal to sell energy to utility NV Energy.

SolarReserve hopes success with its Crescent Dunes project will help it secure more contracts around the world.

“In a lot of cases you don’t have grids that are as reliable as the U.S.,” said Smith. “With our technology, the more fertile markets are the international markets, which require energy storage.”

Last month, SolarReserve received environmental approval to construct a 260-megawatt plant in Chile. The proposed Copiapo solar project in Chile’s high-altitude Atacama Desert would be one of the world’s largest solar projects. It is scheduled to open in 2019. The company is also eyeing projects in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, Australia and Mexico, said Smith.

SolarReserve will need additional deep-pocketed investors to finance its international ambitions.

“We are looking to bring in strategic investors into the company,” said Smith. “The pipeline (of projects) could require $4 billion in equity opportunities.”

Technology reporter Garrett Reim can be reached at greim@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @garrettreim for the latest in L.A. tech news.

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