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POLITICS

Lights out for another White House-backed solar company

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins

The Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting that Amonix, a solar panel company in north Las Vegas that received about $15.6 million in federal funds – grants, not loans in this case – and another $6 million in tax credits, has closed its doors for good after laying off most of its staff earlier this year.

Rene Kenerly, a former material and supply manager at Amonix, said the plant has been idle since May 1, when he was laid off. At its peak, the plant had ramped up to about 700 employees working three shifts a day to produce solar panels for a utility customer in Amarosa, Colo., he said.

“I don’t think they had a lot of training,” Kenerly said. “There were a lot of quality issues. A lot of stuff was coming back because it had some functionality issues.”

The Amonix plant was highly touted by politicians and economic development officials when it opened in May 2011. Company executives said they would employ as many as 300 assembly line workers paid $12 to $14 an hour, plus benefits.

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and Gov. Brian Sandoval were among the political leaders who lauded the company when it announced it would start making solar cells in the Golden Triangle Industrial Park.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a branch of the Energy Department, touted those taxpayer dollars last year as proof of a bright future for advances in solar power:

NREL’s partnerships with industry, such as this one with Amonix, are key to reaching aggressive White House goals including lowering solar energy’s installed cost to $1 a watt, which would make America a leader in renewable energy.

Instead the company laid off most of its 200 workers in January and muddled through until finally closing this week. The Review-Journal quotes a Mitchell Truman, president of Pan Western, shipper for the company, as saying he is still owed $60,000. “I’ll never see that money,” Truman told the paper.

Join the club, buddy.

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