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Sunday, March 18, 2012

How close is W & K Solar to shutting its doors?

  The Toledo Blade has a report today about Willard & Kelsey Solar's financial health. Like many other alternative fuel industries, particularly solar, W & K's finances have been, either in part or whole, built upon tax money dispensed by government entities who simply aren't very good at deciding which industries can or should survive in a free marketplace.
  The Blade reports that the firm received funds from the state even though it was obvious Willard & Kelsey's financial situation was very difficult.
  W & K has laid off employees in the past and been sued. According to The Blade, the doors were locked on a Tuesday with no response, always a bad sign. Both Biden and Hilda Solis have visited W & K in recent days, extolling the virtues of solar energy sources.
  The solar industry is acquiring a reputation for disrepute, according to critics, particularly Gordon Johnson who monitors the alternative fuel industry:
"It's not about what's the best or the most renewable," he said. "It's all political and who has the most lobbying power. They should say what the low-cost leaders in the industry are. It's that simple." 
Willard & Kelsey's loan agreement with the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority stipulates that the company would create 450 full-time jobs by Sept. 30 of this year. It also states the company would create 300 jobs after the installation of its second line. 
If Willard & Kelsey fails to meet the terms of that loan for any reason other than market conditions, it could owe $44,444 to the state for each job not created. That sum could well exceed $10 million.
  We wish them luck, but if history is any guide, the outlook for survival is bleak. China makes cheaper solar panels. 
  Solar companies have been criticized in the past for appearing to have a "pay to play" scheme in which, in return for large government loans or grants, executives of the company contribute significant sums to the Democrat party's reelection efforts. In the following case, the company was Abound Solar:
News Web site The Complete Colorado revealed “fingerprints” of a “pay-to-play agenda” when Abound received its conditional approval in September 2010. Wealthy philanthropist Pat Stryker, whose Bohemian Companies has significant investment in Abound, donated $475,599 to federal Democrat candidates and causes over the 2008 to 2012 election cycles, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Included in that amount is $11,900 in maximum contributions to President Obama’s two campaigns for the White House. Stryker also was an $87,500 bundler for the president’s Inaugural Committee, the People’s Press Collective discovered, and donated $50,000 herself. The Sunlight Foundationreported that she gave $35,800 to the 2012 Obama Victory Fund. In October 2009 Stryker also visited a former assistant to the deputy chief of staff at the White House, Kristin Sheehy, who also hosted several visits from SEIU president Andy Stern. The purpose of Stryker’s visits is undisclosed.
  Political donations of employees of Willard & Kelsey can be found here and here, although none appear to be very large.
 The Daily Caller has implicated First Solar in giving large donations to the Democrat Party in exchange for loan guarantees. 

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