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Rockland Capital buys DOE-backed Beacon Power

Beacon Power, the energy storage company that filed for bankruptcy last November, has been sold. And that could bode well for the Energy Department and taxpayers.

Beacon Power, the U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee recipient that filed for bankruptcy last year, has been sold to private equity firm Rockland Capital. And that's good news for taxpayers and possibly Beacon Power employees.

Under the deal, which is subject to court approval today, Rockland will pay $30.5 million in cash for Beacon Power's 20-megawatt flywheel energy storage plant in Stephentown, New York. This is the same plant that was built using most of a  $43 million federal loan guarantee awarded back in August 2010.  The Energy Department could recover more than 70 percent of the taxpayer-backed loan under the agreement, The Hill reported.

The $43 million loan, which came from the U.S. Treasury's Federal Financing Bank, covered nearly two thirds of the plant's estimated $69 million price tag. Beacon Power reportedly used $39.5 million from the loan guarantee program. The plant, described by Beacon Power as the first of its kind in the world, was built to showcase its flywheel systems -- an energy storage device used to regulate and stabilize the power grid as more intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar come on line.

Beacon Power had plans to build two more 20-megawatt flywheel-based energy storage plants. In 2009, Beacon Power was awarded a $24 million smart grid grant by the DOE. Last April, the DOE allowed Beacon to draw up to 95 percent of the grant to proceed with funding for construction on a flywheel energy storage plant in Pennsylvania.

Rockland plans to provide the necessary capital to develop the Pennsylvania flywheel energy storage plant. The private equity firm also will rehire the majority of the current Beacon staff into its new company, Beacon Power LLC.

Photo: Flickr user Diana Parkhouse, CC 2.0

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com