Wednesday, March 20, 2013
SoloPower, the solar panel maker struggling to launch its first production line in Portland, confirmed Wednesday night that it will cut its workforce as it attempts to restructure operations.
A spokesperson for the California-based company declined to discuss further details but said it would issue an announcement soon.
The layoffs are the latest signal of distress at SoloPower, where production delays have placed state and federal loan guarantees in peril.
The company, which state business recruiters won over in 2011, already has received a $10 million state energy loan backed in part by Portland funding and a $20 million manufacturing Business Energy Tax Credit that will pay $13.5 million in cash.
But SoloPower has struggled to ramp up production in Portland, where initial plans outlined a $340 million thin-film solar panel factory that would eventually employ 450 within five years.
The first line was originally slated for completion in April 2012. But missed goals forced executives to renegotiate a $197 million federal loan guarantee in January, The Oregonian reported earlier this month.Now it is looking to sell millions of dollars worth of equipment from its San Jose, Calif., headquarters. An online advertisement lists at least $5 million in surplus equipment from SoloPower. Silicon Valley Disposition, a San Mateo liquidator, is waiting for the final go-ahead from SoloPower, a company representative said.
Meanwhile, former Chief Technology Officer Mustafa Pinarbasi has joined the exodus of top executives in recent weeks, accepting a similar role at another California startup. Reached by phone Wednesday, he said he was in a meeting and unable to comment.
Craig Cornelius, a managing director for SoloPower's key private investor, New Jersey-based Hudson Clean Energy Partners, also resigned recently, Dow Jones' VentureWire reported.
The lights were on Wednesday at SoloPower's North Portland plant, where about 20 cars were parked in the front lot. Three workers outside the plant declined to comment on whether assembly lines were running.
The company is ultimately in line to benefit from nearly $58 million in state and local incentives, including tax breaks, a tax credit and loans. A second $10 million state loan is currently stalled.
Representatives for Gov. John Kitzhaber's office and the Portland Development Commission said Wednesday they had not yet heard about the layoffs.
The Oregon Department of Energy and Business Oregon, the agencies overseeing SoloPower's loan and tax credit, could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
However, Business Oregon Director Tim McCabe, who issued final approval to SoloPower's manufacturing Business Energy Tax Credit last fall, told a House legislative committee last week that the four biggest recipients, which include SoloPower, all remain in operation despite solar industry turmoil.
Manufacturing: Molly Young reports that struggling SoloPower, which confirmed layoffs late Wednesday, pledged to create hundreds of jobs in Oregon two years ago, when unemployment here topped 9 percent and manufacturers were reeling. In return, it tapped millions in incentives on that promise, including a state tax credit that will net it $13.5 million in cash and leave Oregon's general fund out another $6.5 million. But according to documents obtained Thursday by The Oregonian, the deal requires only a fraction of those projected jobs.