Woes Mount for Local Energy Companies Beacon Power and American Superconductor

10/31/11Follow @xconomy

Things aren’t looking so sunny for Tyngsboro, MA-based Beacon Power (NASDAQ: BCON) and Devens, MA-based American Superconductor (NASDAQ: AMSC), a couple of prominent public companies in the cleantech sector.

—Beacon Power, a flywheel energy storage company, filed documents seeking Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection. The move has shone some negative light on the U.S. Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program, which two years ago provided the cleantech company with a $43 million loan guarantee, as financing for an energy storage facility Beacon planned to build in New York. Just two months ago, DOE-backed solar panel maker Solyndra, based in California, filed for bankruptcy, a move that has seen some serious political fallout. The Beacon deal has some differences though, according to a Department of Energy spokesman, Reuters reports. The Beacon plant is continuing to operate despite the bankruptcy filing, and the government loan is the first debt Beacon is responsible for paying.

—Renewable energy technology company American Superconductor backed out of plans to acquire Finnish firm The Switch Engineering for about $265 million cash. The deal fell through because of “adverse market conditions for a financing required to fund the acquisition,” according to the company announcement. Shareholders of The Switch, a maker of magnet generator and power converter products, will retain the roughly $20.6 million upfront payment from American Superconductor. The news paints an even bleaker picture for American Superconductor, which less than three months ago revealed its plans to cut 30 percent of its workforce (about 150 people) and take other measures to improve its finances.

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