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Another Green Energy Failure

<<<< Oregon prepares to foreclose on SoloPower as solar startup misses loan payment >>>


By Richard Read, The Oregonian   … May 4, 2013…

Oregon officials are preparing to foreclose on SoloPower Inc. after the government-backed startup missed a loan payment this week in the latest setback for the state’s reeling green-energy sector.

SoloPower, which is still scrambling to revive its struggling North Portland plant, missed a $50,800 payment Wednesday on a $10 million loan from the Oregon Energy Department, an agency spokeswoman said Friday.

If the San Jose, Calif., company defaults, Portland taxpayers could be out $5 million, because the city guaranteed half the loan last year in wooing the plant away from Wilsonville.

Already the state of Oregon is out $20 million in state tax credits issued to SoloPower, which is scheduled to close its factory next month, barring arrival of a white knight bearing fresh capital. Energy officials are working with Oregon Justice Department lawyers on the case, said Diana Enright, an Energy Department spokeswoman.

“We’re working with them in preparation of a foreclosure or any other collection proceedings that are allowed by the loan documents,” Enright said. “We believe we have sufficient collateral to cover the $10 million,” in the form of manufacturing equipment.

SoloPower is the latest and most visible casualty in a green meltdown spreading across Oregon, where state and local officials showered incentives on companies that promised thousands of jobs. Solar manufacturers have gone under or laid off workers amid a worldwide glut that dragged prices below the cost of production.

SoloPower, which tried to develop solar panels in thin sheets for rolling onto rooftops, planned a $340 million factory that would ultimately employ 450. Instead, the company plans to lay off a skeleton crew of 29 workers June 17, and close, probably for good.

Company managers declined through a public relations firm Friday to comment on finances. They repeated assertions that SoloPower is in discussions with potential new investors.

Enright said that technically all borrowers have a five-day grace period for payments, giving SoloPower until the close of business Monday to make its payment. The company has made 11 of the interest-only payments so far, she said. It had received $10 million of the loan, originally set for $20 million. It was also approved for a $20 million state Business Energy Tax Credit worth $13.5 million to the company.

Fallout continues in Oregon’s solar manufacturing sector, whose prospects appeared bright not long ago. On April 26, Salem managers of a Sanyo Solar plant that opened in 2009 with $45 million in government subsidies said they would lay off 52 of their 200 workers.

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