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The sun sets on Evergreen Solar

People walk under solar panels.

TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: A Massachusetts renewable energy company spent a ton of money to building a high tech plant to make solar panels. But three years and $165 million later, the company says lights out.

From station WBUR in Boston, Curt Nickisch reports.


CURT NICKISCHEvergreen Solar says it has no choice to but to produce in China instead. And with the Massachusetts plant go 800 jobs. But worker Andrew Koenigsberg doesn't blame his bosses. He blames Congress.

ANDREW KOENIGSBERG: Even though the company's worked really hard to bring a product to market, and I've done my best to help out, it's just not a level playing field. China's pushing for alternative energy, and we're not.

Stephen Lacey analyzes the industry for RenewableEnergyWorld.com. He says the U.S. and Europe used to dominate solar. Not anymore.

STEPHEN LACEY: China's going to do for solar panels what it did for tennis shoes. And that is: drive down the costs, as rapidly as possible. And we as an industry need this.

Lacey sees a ray of hope, because the cheaper solar energy gets, the bigger the industry gets.

Steve Rhoades is the CEO of the solar company Satcon. He plans on adding 100 positions over two years in Boston.

STEVE RHOADES: It's our corporate headquarters, so we're doing all of our R&D, we're doing all our engineering.

Just not manufacturing, that was never the plan. Massachusetts taxpayers wish they'd had a better plan. They gave Evergreen Solar $58 million to build its plant. Now they may only get $3 million back.

In Boston, I'm Curt Nickisch, for Marketplace.

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At http://www.greenlytes.com most of our solar flood lights and security lights are from big US brands. They are manufacturing these units in China under strict quality control. The problem is that if they were to be manufactured in the US you'll have to multply the price by 5...

I work in a plant that manufactures parts for solar manufacturing- inprocess parts, if you will. Our manufacturing is filthy disgusting and pollutes like crazy with particulates. The clean air act only forces us to watch out particulates during the day, so we vent the place every night. You tree-huggers think solar is a good idea? Take a closer look, because the manufacture of solar cells is an environmental catastrophe.

Sending all our solar panel factories (and related R&D) to China is gutting the US manufacturing capabilites.

We don't seem to get it that China is not the US's friend. Instead of bombing our factories, China is buying them at a discount. This is Pearl Harbor in slow motion. We need a Pearl Harbor response to stop this outflow of US manufacturing plants, and the gov't doesn't have a clue.

Is a US where everything is made in China a good idea? Yes, for the Chinese it is, not for US.
Imagine, the US in 20 years, you try to start a Solar Panel production line and there are no US suppliers of basic manufacturing tooling or materials.

Below is link to great article by Andy Grove (Intel CEO) on his thoughts about not being able to find any US made solar panels for his house.

How to Make an American Job Before It's Too Late: Andy Grove
By Andy Grove - Jul 1, 2010 1:00 PM PT
Bloomberg Opinion
Andy Grove, senior adviser to Intel, was the company’s chief executive officer or chairman from 1987 until 2005.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-07-01/how-to-make-an-american-job-bef...

I appreciate the clarification and responsible position that Andrew has provided in the Comment Section. The key as he notes and that others have called out is properly accounting for the true cost of energy. Eliminating subsidies for organizations making huge profits while degrading the environment would be a positive step forward. So would a broader awareness of what things really cost -- "cheap" has a huge price.

For the record I never said I blame congress - I just told Chris that its not a level playing field. As long as tax subsidies continue for big oil and big coal and big agribusiness for ethanol and these industries can externalize the environmental costs, then alternative energy will never be able to compete. Instead of subsiding alternative energy, I would just prefer that the subsidies stop for current energy sources.

Deep Thinker, what a joke! Why don't you just come right out and say it -- it's no skin off your nose if American workers have their wages cut by 90% so they can compete with Chinese workers. Please Consider is absolutely right. All of the efforts to use stimulus money and the talk about the Chinese yuan and tariffs is designed to try to save a living wage for Americans.

Folks, I've been involved helping companies move manufacturing from the US to China for 30 years now.

The reason they are moving the manufacturing to China is simple - Chinese workers make much less than US workers so the cost per unit is much lower for the owners of the US company allowing them to sell more and make more money per unit!

The only way to stop this is for our government to put tariffs on (or somehow increase the cost of) the Chinese goods.

Great article, it's unfortunate, but pretty much everything solar related is made in China. We well solar lights at www.outdoorsolarstore.com and have been able to find just 1 product that is made in the U.S.

True cost accounting is the answer. When we start paying the true costs of conventional energy then solar will be cost effective. We must quit subsidizing the most profitable industry in history and make them actually pay taxes and pay for the environmental devastation that they create. We must quit burning things!

One way to generate additional savings is to let the recent tax-cuts expire after the two years. Then invest the capital in a meaningful policy which will support the manufacturing of solar panels.

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