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They Didn't Build That: Another Taxpayer-Funded 'Green' Energy Project Goes Belly up


-- "I'll never see that money." -- Flashback: President praises investment

After being open for only 14 months, Amonix has been forced to close its heavily-subsidized 214,000-square-foot facility in North Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Review Journal’s Hubble Smith reports.

“The company today began selling equipment, from automated tooling systems to robotic welding cells,” Smith adds.

Really? That's so weird! We clearly remember the president telling us what a great idea it was to invest in this company:

A solar panel company -- a solar power company called Amonix received a roughly $6 million tax credit for a new facility they’re building in the Las Vegas area, a tax credit they were able to match with roughly $12 million in private capital.

The only problem we have is these credits were working so well, there aren’t enough tax credits to go around. When we announced the program last year, it was such a success we received 500 applications requesting over $8 billion in tax credits, but we only had $2.3 billion to invest.

We're just going to go ahead and say it: we think maybe -- just maybe -- you invested in the wrong company, Mr. President.

“A designer and manufacturer of concentrated photovoltaic solar power systems, Amonix received $6 million in federal tax credits and a $15.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy [emphases added],” Smith reports.

But that’s not all!

The plant has actually been “idle” since May 1, according to Rene Kenerly, a former Amonix employee (yeah, he was laid off), but we're just now finding out about it.

At one point, the plant employed about 700 employees working three shifts a day to produce solar panels for a Colorado client, he told the Las Vegas Review Journal.

"I don't think they had a lot of training," Kenerly said. "There were a lot of quality issues. A lot of stuff was coming back because it had some functionality issues."

Of course, as is the case with most of these federally-subsidized “green” energy projects, the plant was hailed a success by several politicians.

“Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and Gov. Brian Sandoval were among the political leaders who lauded the company when it announced it would start making solar cells in the Golden Triangle Industrial Park,” Smith reports.

But the company's fortunes didn’t last long. In January, the company laid off 200 workers (around the same time the company’s CEO died in a plane crash).

(Related: Another Solar Power Company Lays off Hundreds of Workers)

"We are retooling to redeploy our next generation utility-scale CPV (concentrated photovoltaic) solar power system," company spokeswoman Kelly Rice wrote in an e-mail at that time.

"During this time, we will ramp down our facility to about 100 jobs, and will ramp back up based on the manufacturing build plan in second half of 2012," the email added.

Smith’s report continues:

A hand-written sign posted at the shuttered plant Wednesday morning gave telephone numbers in California and Las Vegas for deliveries and inquiries. Amonix had a five-year lease on the site.

The North Las Vehas plant was a joint venture with Singapore's Flextronics Industrial. Amonix founder and chairman Vahan Garboushian had estimated capital investment of $15 million in the plant, including equipment, construction and tenant improvements.

And as a final insult, Mitchell Truman, president of Pan Western, claims his company is owed approximately $60,000 for “shipping costs” related to Amonix and its partner, Cogentrics.

"I'll never see that money," Truman said.

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