Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Failed Oregon Solar Equipment Plant Leaves Behind Millions in Taxpayer Losses

By Bonner R. Cohen | The Heartland Institute | November 26, 2018

A multi-year effort by federal, state, and local agencies to prop up an Oregon solar-panel manufacturer has ended in a shuttered factory, millions of taxpayer dollars down the drain, and a heavily polluted manufacturing site.

In 2010 SoloPower Systems (SoloPower) claimed it could manufacture “flexible” solar PV cells and modules that were light and thin enough to be installed on buildings that couldn’t support regular solar panels. Promising to employ hundreds of people at its 225,000-square-foot manufacturing plant, SoloPower attracted millions of dollars in loans and tax credits from government agencies.

Governments Provide Funding

In 2010 the U.S. Department of Energy loaned SoloPower $10 million. Business Oregon, a state agency, granted SoloPower $20 million in tax credits. The City of Portland agreed to cover half of SoloPower’s debt to the state, provided the solar-panel factory was located within the city’s limits, while Multnomah County, where Portland is located, declared the company’s factory site was in an enterprise zone, freeing the company from paying property taxes as long as it met certain job creation requirements.

By August 2011, the Obama administration increased is commitment to the project, furnishing $197 million in DOE loan guarantees to the company, and the California Energy Commission loaned the company nearly $5 million.

Company Falters

SoloPower’s prospects yielded relatively quickly to marketplace realities with the company’s largely untested technologies proving unreliable and more expensive than those offered by its competitors.

In April 2013, the company shut down its factory and laid off most of its workforce. By July 2013 it stopped making payments on its state loans and shortly thereafter, California sued the company for failing to make payments on its loan.

Subsequently, the U.S. Energy Department withdrew its $197 million in loan guarantees, and in the fall of 2017, the Trump Energy Department declared SoloPower in default of its original $10 million loan.

Also in 2017, Multnomah County sued the company for $1.8 million in back property taxes the county says the company owes for failing to meet the job commitments necessary to qualify for the property tax breaks it received, and SoloPower ceased making to the state of Oregon, saddling Portland with repaying the company’s entire $5 million loan guarantee from the state.

Toxic Waste Site

In an audit of the company Oregon’s Secretary of State pointed out although “Multnomah County had the legal right to seize the borrower’s equipment for delinquent taxes,” it was unlikely to do so because the plant was heavily polluted with cadmium and hydrochloric acid.

Seizing the equipment may not be an option given the level of pollution at the plant.

This stuff is very caustic,” Michael Vaughn, Multnomah County accessor told Oregon Live. “And there’s lots of it. It’s one big mess.”

Cleaning up the plant is estimated to cost more than $500,000.

Read the rest of the story here.

November 30, 2018 - Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I’ve read this report, including “the (linked) rest of the story.” My principal reaction: Does Mr. Cohen’s reference to “marketplace realities” relate to China’s involvement in the solar-technology industry? I think I’ve read — I can’t readily cite a source — that the market (esp. panels) is essentially captive to China. If so, Cohen should have made the point. (In addition, I’d speculate that, post-2010, “the market” has caught up with SoloPower’s claimed raison d’etre and its “prospects.” Perhaps the company’s downfall is due in part or largely to mismanagement and failure to “keep pace”?)

    Comment by roberthstiver | December 1, 2018 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.