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September 7th, 2011

Update on Calisolar: ‘Columbus? You thought we meant Ohio?!?’

Published on September 7th, 2011 | By: pwray@ceramics.org

Calisolar’s Sunnyvale, Calif., offices. Credit: Calisolar, Wikipedia

Back in July, we reported how State of Ohio and federal officials were left scratching their head when Calisolara company that has developed a lower-cost method of purifying cheap, low-grade silicon, suddenly pulled out of a deal that would have had the enterprise building a factory just north of Columbus near Mansfield. At the time, Calisolar said it couldn’t meet construction deadlines linked to some state-based financial incentives.

The initial plans created a stir. DOE predicted the company would produce 16,000 metric tons of solar silicon annually and state officials said 1,100 permanent jobs would be created in a converted auto parts factory.

At the time Calisolar backed away from the project, a company spokesperson told me that the no other location was being contemplated. A few weeks later, however, the Mansfield News-Journal reported that company still wanted to expand its capacity.

Indeed, the AP reported over the weekend that Calisolar would be building a silicon plant in Columbus … Mississippi! “The package includes a $59.5 million loan for equipment and construction, a $11.25 million grant for infrastructure and a $4.5 million grant for workforce training,” says the AP story.

Those are nice incentives, but what doesn’t add up is that by shifting to Mississippi, Calisolar gave up a $275 million DOE loan guarantee and a deal through Ohio Public Utility Commission that would have saved the company $100 million in utility bills over ten years.

Calisolar’s explanation (and I am not making this up): Company chairman John Correnti is quoted as telling members of Mississippi’s legislature, “The reason we’re coming here, and I’m going to be frank, is the Mississippi farm boys and the farm girls. I wouldn’t trade a Mississippi farm boy or farm girl for any Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, South American.”

The AP also notes, “Calisolar will be changing its name to reflect both its business beyond solar panels and its ventures in Mississippi.”


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One Response to Update on Calisolar: ‘Columbus? You thought we meant Ohio?!?’

  1. Dan says:

    If they’re still looking for a site, I hear there’s an 1100-employee PV factory available in Fremont, California, about 20 miles from the current headquarters. It would be poetic justice, given that this company is solving the same problem (the high cost of PV-grade silicon) as the bankrupt Solyndra.

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