Humble Beacon CEO Downplays Victory In "Next Solyndra" Race


Beacon Power hydrant: Look for it in your neighborhood, comrade.

Move over, SunPower. Blow out your candles, Solar Energy Project. SoloPower your sun has set; Fisker Automotive, your race is run. 

There can be only one Solyndra II, and it is Beacon Power, a Massachusetts energy storage company that went bankrupt Sunday, unsaved by a $43 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan from Steven Chu's Department of Energy. 

CNET's Martin LaMonica digs up an I'm Not Solyndra statement [pdf] from Bill Capp, Beacon President and CEO. 

Some of Capp's distinctions – such as the Nasdaq-delisted company's status as a publicly traded entity – are minor. Others are non-existent. Capp notes, for example that Beacon only borrowed $39.5 million of the $43 million guarantee – but the same could be said for Solyndra, which only borrowed between $527 million and $528 million of its $535 million guarantee. 

On the other hand, Beacon's loan has not been renegotiated. This means taxpayers may be getting more cents to the dollar in bankruptcy court than they will in the case of Solyndra's loan, which was restructured earlier this year in an extraordinary move that subordinated taxpayers to the solar panel maker's politically connected investors. (The House Committee on Energy and Commerce is attempting through its subpoena power to compel the Obama Administration to reveal details about this novel restructuring.) 

Beacon is also still operating, with its employees taking a 20 percent pay cut, in contrast to Solyndra, which shuttered its operation and is auctioning off its possessions. Beacon makes a "first-of-its-kind flywheel energy storage plant that provides a critical electric power balancing service to help maintain a reliable grid." 

Adrian "Ozymandias" Veidt, drawn by unsung Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons.

My understanding is that energy storage is an actual problem that needs to be solved in order to make renewable energy sources – which are costly, unreliable and unproductive relative to standard energy sources – economical. I have no idea whether the Beacon flywheel is that solution, but I do note that the hydrant-shaped storage device is quite similar to if larger than the e-car tanks that made the fortune of Adrian Veidt, Machiavellian Watchmen foil. They're even closer to the Veidt model than the "e-filling stations" envisioned by Better Place, a Palo Alto company that earlier this year was promising to put up its first electronic refueling stop (E-xxon? Elexaco? ValerOhm?) in Israel but more recently seems to be merely "ready to start widely deploying electric vehicles across Israel." (The green energy sector still has excellent image and media management.) 

Who knew the next generation of entrepreneurs dreamed of being Adrian Veidt? From what I remember about the dotcom period's baleful end, I expect the accelerating collapse of green energy will reveal more fantastical delusions concocted by slobbering fans of comic books (sorry, graphic novels!). 

Bonus from Solyndra dead ender Joe Romm: Americans for Prosperity's new Solyndra advertisement, which Romm describes as "speculation and outright lies," but which is more accurately described as an accurate summation of the known facts of the case, with ample and clear documentation: 

"Of course, it would be silly to speculate or assume anything before the official investigation of the loan guarantee program is complete," Romm writes. I think that means we're in for a long winter. 

Bronze medal update: We've got Win and Place, but what about Show? CBS News has EnerDel favored for the Solyndra III spot. Also, AP's Matthew Daly digs through today's Solyndra document dump and finds that the administration had a plan to bail the company out