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The Deal: Loan Guarantees for Beacon Power and Nordic Windpower

Beacon Power will use the $43 million it received to develop a 20 MW regulation plant at a site in New York. Nordic Windpower, USA will use its $16 million loan guarantee to build two-bladed, utility-scale wind turbines.

But while these companies are waiting to get their money from the government, others are wondering if it’s even worth trying to apply for the loans or any kind of funding for that matter. So what does it take to come out on top of the money race through the Department of Energy? Each company had a different start but came out the same at the finish line.

Beacon is using the money to develop a 20 MW regulation plant at a site in Stephenton, NY. The site will use several 1 MW flywheels to store energy as well as electrical and technological equipment.

Company spokesman Gene Hunt said Beacon didn’t have financial advisors per se, just its outside law firm of Edwards, Angell, Palmer & Dodge. “We also used our in-house expertise and we have good relationships with our congressional members.”

The loan would be funded by the U.S. Treasury’s Federal Financing Bank and is expected to provide debt financing for 62.5 percent of the estimated $69 million total project cost. Around $50 million of this is direct equipment and facility costs. Beacon’s equity contribution of roughly $26 million will be provided by a combination of cash, in-kind assets and other eligible project costs. The company is currently exploring funding options to cover its equity contribution.

In mid-September, Beacon received word from NASDAQ that it was out of compliance with the exchange’s minimum trading-price of $1 per share. Beacon Power closed at 72 cents a share the day NASDAQ sent its notice. Beacon said it believes it meets applicable standards, other than the minimum bid price requirement.

Hunt advises other companies pursuing similar funding to be prepared to answer the government’s questions about anything and everything.

“They asked what would happen if we had to decommission, things that seem 20 years into the future,” Hunt said. “They are very thorough and have high expectations.”

Beacon is looking to work on other projects where government backing is available. “Vice President Biden said there would be $4 billion for smart grid projects grants, $615 million of that for energy storage,” Hunt said. “We intend to apply for that as well.”

Nordic Windpower CEO Thomas Carbone, said his company was part of a round of applications accepted in late February and started getting feedback from the government within the week.

“They asked us questions about the environmental part of the application and we took the process very seriously,” Carbone said. “We just wanted to answer each question properly and keep the process moving.”

Nordic is a privately held company. In late March, the company closed additional funding in the form of convertible notes. Goldman Sachs and Impax Asset Management participated in the funding along with new investors I2BF Venture Capital & Pulsar Energy Capital.

The investment enables Nordic to fulfill the first orders for its N1000 1 MW wind turbines. The federal loan guarantee also will go toward commercializing and building the wind turbines, which were expected to be shipped sometime in September, Carbone said. The turbines feature a damped teeter hub to distribute fatigue loads and lessen the need for maintenance. The loan will pay for the buying and selling of the turbine parts, equipment and tooling and technology development.

Carbone advises other firms that may be thinking about applying to seek the help of an outside firm who knows the process. Nordic went through World Business Capital — a financial institution based in Hartford, CT that specializes in loans for renewable energy projects — to help with their application.

The outside advisers knew what was required, how to present the information and what the government will look for, Carbone said. “That support was invaluable. It pays to reach out.”

But if it’s not in the cards to hire an outside firm, Carbone said do your research and learn as much as you can.

So what’s on the horizon for Nordic? “We’re participating with several universities in grant writing for innovative projects around improving service and maintenance costs of wind turbines,” Carbone said. “We’re also looking into near-offshore wind power on the Great Lakes.”

Both companies said the government requires them to have equity on hand as well as to follow a list of guidelines after they get their money. Both said they were still waiting to sit down and discuss terms with the government.

No matter if it’s a loan guarantee or stimulus funding, both companies agree that patience is key in terms of getting financial help from the government.

“You’re getting a loan whether it’s through a bank or the Department of Energy,” Carbone said. “There’s due diligence.”

Sharryn Harvey is online editor at Power Engineering magazine.

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