Despite Aid, Evergreen Shuts Solar Plant

Oregon celebrated the decision earlier this month by SoloPower to build a big manufacturing line in the state, seeing the potential for hundreds of new well-paying jobs. But after Massachusetts’ experience with Evergreen Solar – which announced it would close the plant it opened there less than three years after receiving a big aid package – officials on the West Coast might be excused for being a bit nervous.

Evergreen said it was abandoning Devens, Mass., and jettisoning 800 jobs because rapidly falling prices for solar panels made manufacturing in Massachusetts “no longer economically feasible.” Michael El-Hillow, Evergreen president and chief executive officer, noted that “solar manufacturers in China have received considerable government and financial support and, together with their low manufacturing costs, have become price leaders within the industry.”

Evergreen Solar plant closing

image via Evergreen Solar

And yet Evergreen itself received a good deal of government support in the United States. The Boston Globe reported that grants, land, loans and other aid bestowed on Evergreen totaled “$58 million, one of the largest aid packages Massachusetts has provided to a private company.”

To lure SoloPower to the state, Oregon is giving the company a $20 million loan as well as a $20 million state tax credit. The company said that eventually the Wilsonville plant will employ 500 people.

As for Evergreen, it has a factory in Wuhan, China. “With approximately 75 megawatts of installed wafer capacity in Wuhan, the company will continue to supply its outsourcing partner with wafers for conversion into Evergreen Solar branded solar panels,” Evergreen said in its announcement.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.