Show Me the Money! Please?

We’ve been talking for a while now about when U.S. stimulus money is going to flow to renewable energy companies and get the market moving again.

Due to the lack of institutions willing to lend (especially to less-developed companies developing pilot projects), loan guarantees from the government are extremely important. But when are they going to be issued? Hopefully soon.

Unfortunately, due to the sudden influx of applications and stimulus dollars to understaffed and overworked government agencies, it’s looking unlikely that loans will be approved and issued as quickly as everyone hoped. This includes the Department of Energy, which has been notoriously slow in getting such programs moving quickly.

If the stimulus funds don’t flow fast enough, that could be a big problem for some companies that need an influx of capital quickly.

In April, as part of a series of podcasts on the smart grid, we produced a piece on Beacon Power. The company manufactures flywheels for frequency regulation and broader storage applications. (For a detailed explanation of how frequency regulation works, make sure you check out the show, which featured a long interview with Beacon CEO Bill Capp).

Beacon has been working for years to commercialize a large-scale version of its flywheel, and it is getting close. In November of last year, Beacon started servicing ISO New England with a 1-MW frequency regulation project, demonstrating the capabilities of its next-generation flywheel.

But without a loan guarantee from the government, the company’s plans for a 20-MW “smart energy matrix” in New York could be compromised. That would not bode well for a company that was more than $23 million in the red last year.

This technology could be providing a great service to grid operators around the country, which in turn could make them comfortable adding more renewables. (Intermittent sources create higher fluctuations in frequency, making the service more important as we install more wind and solar).

If Beacon does not get the loan and is unable to move forward on the project, it will be terrible casualty of the sluggish government loan-guarantee process. Keep your eyes on Beacon. It may just be a telling example of how the next six months will go for companies in this space.

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I am a reporter with ClimateProgress.org, a blog published by the Center for American Progress. I am former editor and producer for RenewableEnergyWorld.com, where I contributed stories and hosted the Inside Renewable Energy Podcast. Keep in touch through twitter! My profile name is: Stphn_Lacey

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