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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Surprise! SoloPower's in trouble.

The CEO and president of Portland's supposed economic savior both just walked, according to the O. That's news that we haven't seen elsewhere. The company seems to be running out of cash. The jobs it promised in Portland do not appear to have been delivered. And the state bureaucrat in charge of handing out the tax dollars won't talk -- "trade secrets," you know.

In January, company executives were deep in negotiations to refinance a $197 million federal loan commitment, also threatened by the missed benchmarks. The money was meant to fund subsequent manufacturing lines and hundreds of high-paying jobs.

It was those jobs, and the lure of building up Oregon's green energy sector, two years ago that put the California-based startup in line for nearly $58 million in state and city incentives, including loans, tax credits and abatements.

But today, that investment appears at risk. Questions are mounting about the company's missed deadlines and its ability to survive in a market that's already taken down dozens of solar players....

The PDC had deemed the project's risk "very low," because the state loan would have to be paid off before SoloPower could tap the federal loan. The repayment "most likely" would happen within six months at the earliest and two years at the latest, after the state loan was disbursed, according to the report.

[Paula] Mints, the analyst, says the industry faces many of the same challenges today that it faced two years ago. She categorizes any investment in a thin-film startup as high risk and unlikely to pay off until the market stabilizes.

In a recent interview with The Oregonian, she was stunned that Oregon energy officials had deemed the project low-risk despite a separate loan analysis that cited her own grim forecast.

"Who did that?" she said.

It's too bad that there are no real prosecutors in the State of Oregon. Because this one is just screaming for a criminal investigation. Just about anywhere else, people would be connecting the dots that Portland Polite requires the locals here to ignore.

Comments (36)

What Portland really needs for economic salvation is for the sustainability hucksters and their enablers in government to be run out of town.

Math/Reality bites. This is EXACTLY why .gov should stay the hell out of the game of picking winners/losers. Let the free market work. Only graft, theft, fraud, and malinvestment results otherwise.

Does this mean the city will lose out on $5 million because of their loan guarantee? Did they end up promising $5 million of parking meter revenue to back the loan?

"The city of Portland also will agree to guarantee $5 million of the $20 million loan between the state and SoloPower. Because the proposed location is not in an urban renewal district, the city wants to tap parking meter revenue collected by the Bureau of Transportation to pay the guarantee, should the loan default."

Perhaps the devotees of the smart growth can provide an explanation of how solar access works with our infill agenda?

I threw hands up on our codes when the sustainable talk was just that. . . as it didn't seem to matter when one wanted to oppose extreme density based on adherence to solar access standards. Somehow those solar access codes didn't stand for much when the city allowed three and more stories of condos, towering next to neighborhoods and single family homes. I found out those solar access codes were either ignored, minimized or eliminated, am still not sure which. After what I witnessed, I didn't have the fortitude to check it much further.

Maybe Lee or someone else who has kept up on land use and codes can give us the latest status on the City of Portland's solar access standards.

Jack, you called it right. PDC and several other government agencies minimally have committed malfeasance if not crimes.

I hope that our state legislature will step up to their responsibility in this scamming of the rest of us statewide taxpayers. I have little hope for PDC and CoP being reprimanded legally. It is now the responsibility of media to educate and change the dynamics. But that process is so slow that it might be too late.

Vestas the Wind outfit in downtown is also got some ill headwinds hitting it. Can we please get rid of the stupid public purpose fee on our utility bills that was supposed to have sunset two years ago, but got extended with the help of likes of Portland's various legislators and City Hall leaders. Renewable energy other than existing Hydro electric projects can't compete in a world of $3 per million Btu natural gas (wholesale, equivalent to 3 cent per KWH wholesale electric power.) PGE's rate payers are now going to see their rates spiked because its Bungalow Wind project is seriously underperforming. Green Jobs is no jobs, as it makes Oregon increasingly less competitive where once it had a great competitive advantage in electricity costs.
Finally, I've got a tax question about feed-in tariff rooftop solar power generation. If a homeowner sells his rooftop solar power back to PGE or PacifiCorp per feed-in tariff, does not this homeowner have to pay tax on the revenue paid to it by PGE/PacifiCorp for the solar generation? The economics of solar power for the homeowner even under the richest of the government subsidizations programs show a breakeven for most of about 10 to 20 years at best; and this is if the revenue garnered by the homeowner from feed back is not taxed as income. Some accountants I've talked to think this could become an issue if IRS were to have a change of heart. If taxed, the economics of feed in tariffs for roof top solar even with the immense subsidization, really doesn't pencil out if the revenue is taxed.

Maybe municipalities should just start saying "no" to companies making unreasonable location demands and insisting on special sugar deals.

Then when they make good on their promises and flee to states and cities that promise largesse, those state and cities will soon be run into the ground and change their ways.

Or maybe we'll get "Delaware-like" tax haven areas devoted to particular businesses (Delaware is, of course, the domestic investment state): The high-tech state, the sports state (full of fancy arenas that other cities finally refuse to rebuild and tax-free campuses for the management of athletic clothing and shoe empires), the large Japanese battery powered airliner state (oh, wait, we have one of those already), the large monopolistic and controlling department store state . . . one could go on. If only one or two states continued to buy into this corporate entitlement, they'd soon die of blood loss. And when we actually made things rather than imported and consumed them there WERE specialty manufacturing areas that weren't artificially maintained in this country. Meanwhile the rest of us could empower our smaller start-ups and invest in infrastructure and parity and demand would drive whether a business survived or not . . . not somebody's idea of what we all ought to support.

You know what's also amazing to me is how with Adams, and more recently Obama, the American public has been hoodwinked by hope for an almost immediately different (and yet untested) energy future. When I used to work with electric utility engineers, who were well seasoned mature veterans, new energy technologies which hadn't been tested economically and otherwise for several decades were only allowed small amounts of capital for demonstration projects and weren't allowed to be part of the main electric system. Energy technologies are an evolution like many other things, and new ones need to be phased in only gradually if proven reliable, economical and otherwise. The Hopey Changey thing really isn't working in reality, but Hope is something too easily sold in a nation which has become to dependent on specious money printing and heavy federal deficit spending (major government misallocation of resources is the result).

OK, so we have money to throw at these green companies to use as mgmt bonuses, but we just don't have any money for schools.

I'd say worse than criminal. Shows what happens when the Bluemanure types elect kids to run the city.

What does that word "green" really mean?
Perhaps we need to take some in-depth looks at some of these buzz words.
Affordable Housing.
Smart Growth.
Public/Private Partnership.
. . . . . . .Add to the list.

Twenty-Minute Neighborhood.
Road Diet.
Active Transportation.
For the Children.
Creative Class.
Courageous Conversations.

The PDC had deemed the project's risk "very low," because the state loan would have to be paid off before SoloPower could tap the federal loan

I try to follow that reasoning and I don't get very far.

The whole thing was a stinker from the get-go. Incompetence, corruption, or a combination of the two was in play.

There's only one great buzz phrase for these sleazy attempts by our politicians to steer the free market. They use it for a project that's ready to go but it also describes all the BS that comes with it: Shovel ready.

The market was never there for green energy. The enviro wackos and politicians wished it was, and did everything they could to make the market, while also grabbing the graft.

That is why Obama and his energy Czar said that energy prices must 'skyrocket'. If you tax gas $6/gal so the price is $10/gal like Europe then there is more cash transfer subsidy for green and graft.

I think the hopey changy thing was just an effective sales job to sway the rubes to vote. Both at the local Portland level as well as at the national level. And when rubes are naive, smarter-than-everbody-else and gullible, then the sale is more easily made.

Well, someone better call the '60 Minutes' gang because our local journalists don't seem to have any curiosity about where our tax money goes...

This is just outrageous and sad because solar power works! And it can work well for small indiviudalized applications, such as power and hot water for houses.
I cannot help but wonder what is really happening in the market place where the prices for solar panels have dropped by more than half just in the last year! Are the huge carbon based energy companies rigging the alternative energy manufacturers to force the put of business so they can then raise prices and/or control any future developing markets?

Who did that?

That should replace "Keep Portland Weird" as the city's motto.

Oops should be "put them out" of business....
Again solar power isn't "wacky" it really works,. I know I use it.
But the big power companies sure don't want home owners making their own power!!

You want to make 'alternative' energy a reality? Provide a 100% tax credit for small-scale solar, wind, geothermal, and/or water power installations on residential structures.

Yes - solar power works as long as you have lots of money to spend for installation, and plan to live in the same home for 15+ years. Unfortunately, most people average 5-7 years in the same home.
And even here in sunny Nevada, where we have 300+ days of sunshine, it takes 15-20 years for a solar installation to pay for itself.

There is a faction of liberals who pee all over themselves whenever anyone says the word "green", or "sustainable". Evidently these folks aren't quite smart enough to actually understand economics.
Biodiesel deals, ethanol deals, wind farms, solar,etc. The idiots who approve these deals can't see straight much less shoot straight.

What I can't figure out is if it is just good old stupidity, or is it corruption? It mostly seems to infect liberals so I guess something about their world view turns them into prime targets for these scams.

I happen to be reading Michael Pollan's book called "Omnivore's Dilemma" and his view of organic food could apply here.
He sees two kinds of "organic": the real thing based on the principles formed as a response to the industrialized food chain, and "industrial organic" - where the word has been taken to sell organic food produced using the mass production techniques found that worked for feedlots, etc...

The failures in green energy and solar power that we hear about are usually large corporate ventures - "industrialized green" whereas the concepts of solar power, etc... are worth looking into on an individual level.

As usual, it's easy to sneer at someone for going off the grid when these giant corporations are there to sell us power, but there'd be a huge emotional payoff knowing you're not relying on the Persian Gulf, etc...to get power. Not as much anyway. Selling electricity back to the grid must also feel good.

I see a parallel between what has happened with "green" and "organic." The key is not to believe this means either one is bad. It just looks that way in the hands of certain corporations trying to take advantage of the marketing aspects.

Not seeing the pluses of solar power or taking a green approach would be just as foolhardy as falling all over ourselves at the mention of the words. By the way, the big oil companies must love hearing the negative talk about greenies. It's exactly what they'd want.

Solar power is life. Plants convert sunlight into food. That cow that made the rib-eye steak grew on the energy of the sun. We get energy from solar power every time we take a bite.

Turning "solar" into some kind of joke liberal word is as far away from reality as you can get.

How special.

The pitch man, Harris, and the receiver Mayor Adams are both gone.

Left behind are more of the same.

So it's all to be continue

SoloPower was the oufit that some Wilsonville voters politicians ran out of town, right?

And at the time Adams and lots of other "wise" people were chortling with glee at the sopposed "foolishness" of the Wilsonville folks.

Wonder what happenned to those Wilsonville folks?

Wonder whayb happ[enned o Adams and company?


“the city wants to tap parking meter revenue collected by the Bureau of Transportation to pay the guarantee, should the loan default”

Perhaps they can divert all the money from streetcar operations which also comes from parking meter revenues. More than likely the lip service from the sleazy greenie weenies will just add more green debt for the taxpayers to pay off.

Next time they tell you they need more taxes remember this headline:

State approves $20 million tax credit for SoloPower, as Portland plant struggles to meet job, manufacturing benchmarks


I'd say waaaaaaaaaaaay more than 1 out of 6 are crazy in the Legislature.

How many different ways can Portland spend the same parking meter revenue?

SoloPower was ran out of wilsonville by citizens John Ludlow and Vince Alexander who dared to circulate a referendum to put their City's scheme to a vote.
SoloPower didn't like that and found Sam Adams a better partner with more money.
The then clackamas County commission voted unanimously to support wilsonville with a $2 million County guarantee.
Kitzhaber was a vocal champion all along the merry way.

When will we start actually holding the politicians who cook up these schemes accountable for their actions ?
Is this not criminal fraud ?

Has it always been this corrupt, or did we let them get by with an inch, a foot
and now they have gone miles!!
When the system gives passes to certain ones, a clear signal as to who fits in the camp of protection, with not much worry about accountability.

clinamen- Yes it always has been with two caveats.

First, it's more obvious and public now if you care to look. Many don't, especially if the object of the corruption is their favored cause.

Second, there's far more (and far too much) money sloshing around at all levels of government, just ripe for the plucking. Very few people object to these schemes as something that shouldn't be done by government period. Rather, they think it should be more efficient or less corrupt, which is nonsense as long as people and money are involved. Those two always find each other.

To answer Nonny Mouse... regarding, "Wonder what happenned to those Wilsonville folks?" One of those folks who drove Solopower from town was elected Chair of the Clackamas County Commission.

The previous Clackamas County Commission had guarenteed $2,000,000 of Wilsonville's gamble with solopower but my friend Vince Alexander led the petition drive to collect almost 1,000 signatures to put the question to the Wilsonville voters.

When Solopower ran from town we said "don't let the doorknob hit ya where the good lord split ya."

Clinamen, here's a brief answer to your inquiry about Portland's solar access codes.

A few years back Portland eliminated it's mostly well thought out solar codes but instituted 33.639 of the zoning code that only applies a few loose solar access requirements under "Land Division and Planned Development". It applies to creation of larger properties that are being subdivided into individual lots.

The past eliminated solar codes applied to infill housing, new houses, small subdivisions, even a remodeling job where roof forms, another story might be added. The past solar codes really addressed some of the concerns that so many neighborhoods are experiencing by infill, narrow lots. It even covered heights of vegetation, trees that might affect a neighbor.

All this has been lost. Sad. CoP arguing that it is more environmental sensitive that in years past is a joke. We have lost a lot of BTUs because density hype.

People should be getting a clear impression of how $170 million can be spent planning the CRC.

There is no real scrutiny ever applied to anything having to do with genuine merit.

Locally, there is no fiscal sense test applied to anything.

The CRC is the ultimate example. Never has there been a more convoluted and cooked up boondoggle of this size.

And even though there an unprecedented level of bipartisan public opposition to it for it's heap of fatal flaws the gang of politicians and conflicts of interest roll on without acknowledging or considering any of it.

Thank you.
I think it is important for the people of Portland to know this.
The city tosses the word sustainable about when behind the curtain the good solar access standards we had years ago have been eliminated.

This goes along with some questions I had about solar. The subject of solar as I recall was brought up many years ago in our country, then it seemed for a period there, alternative energy was "slowed" and I believe this had something to do with what Portland Native said:
But the big power companies sure don't want home owners making their own power!!

Was it that until the big power companies would create those vast acres filled with solar panels, that if $$$ were to be made off the sun, it would be the industry, and too many homeowners making their own power would not be the direction wanted? Could our city be so joined at the hip with industry that the solar access standards didn't matter anymore for individual homeowners? Or was it just forge ahead with the density and those solar access codes were just in the way?

In general all current commercial solar technology is not that worthwhile. There is some stuff in the lab that only now looks promising. But the fundamental problem is that our sun is blue-green and silicon loves infrared. They can push the sensitivity closer to our sun somewhat, but not far enough. Yes, there are situations that make sense like out in the freakin' boondocks or on campers since they can be out in the freakin' boondocks.

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