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POLITICS

Another taxpayer-subsidized solar company struggles to keep the lights on

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michal Conger

SoloPower, a San Jose-based solar panel company that has received hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal incentives, is struggling to stay afloat amid production delays, a leadership exodus and layoffs.

The company announced today it will be laying off employees, but did not give details. SoloPower attributed the “restructuring” to its transition from research to manufacturing thin-film photovoltaic solar panels.

SoloPower recently built a Portland, Ore., factory that was to employ 450 people within five years, the Oregonian reports. As the paper noted last month,

Oregon officials greenlighted a $20 million tax credit for SoloPower — tripling taxpayers’ stake — despite unfulfilled job and production promises and signs the Portland solar panel factory was sliding even further behind.

But the outlook is grim at the factory, where production deadlines have come and gone, raising concern over the fate of the taxpayer-funded loans and tax breaks that lured the company north.

As detailed in the Oregonian, which has followed the company closely since Oregon offered a total of almost $58 million in incentives, SoloPower also received a $197 million federal loan guarantee to build its new factory.

Even if the company does manage to get production rolling, there’s no guarantee there will be strong demand for its solar panels.

As Forbes notes today, “A glut of solar panels has caused prices to crash and forced dozens of manufacturers to either file for bankruptcies, idle production lines or scratch new factory plans. The impact of this imbalance of supply and demand has affected everyone from industry stalwarts such as First Solar and SunPower to startups such as Solyndra and Abound Solar.”


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