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Solar-panel maker Stion far short of original jobs creation goal

By JACK WEATHERLY

The Stion Corp. is struggling to reach its agreed-on goal of creating 1,000 jobs turning out solar panels in Hattiesburg.

There are 110 jobs in Hattiesburg and a companywide total of 147 for the San Jose, Calif.-based company, Vice President for Business Development Frank Yang said this week.

However, that original goal, set in 2012 and given six years, may have changed. A spokesman for the Mississippi Development Authority said on Tuesday that there is an amended memorandum of understanding with Stion. The Mississippi Business Journal has filed an Open Records Law request to see the document. Yang said that he was unable to talk about it.

Yang said in an email said that between 2012 and 2014 the solar industry was oversupplied “due to dumping from Chinese companies,” which led to heavy tariffs by the United States, the European Union and India.

As a result, Stion cut its work force, which had reached 125 about a year ago, Yang said, though he expects to add about 25 jobs in Hattiesburg by year’s end.

“Today our factory is sold out and we are shipping all available product,” Yang said. “We are ramping up production capacity to the full 100 MW (per) year capability.”

The company announced recently that it has completed the last of three pilot projects for Entergy Mississippi, producing 2.2 megawatts of power.

The projects are located in Hinds and DeSoto counties and Brookhaven.

In addition, the company, which started production in Hattiesburg 2012, lists the following sales highlights:

» Five megawatt projects in Georgia, financed and owned by Washington Gas, which sells electricity to Georgia Power.

» 1.5 megawatt project in Avon, N.Y. for Washington Gas.

» 4-megawatt projected in The Republic of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean.

» 1.5-megawatt project in Puerto Rico.

» 1.5-megawatt in housing and other projects in Singapore.

The company has also lists the following turnkey projects:

» More than 1 megawatt of projects for farms in the Central Valley of California.

» A 250-kilowatt project for Kern County, Calif.

» A 170-kilowatt project for the San Francisco International Airport.

A megawatt is 1 million watts and a kilowatt is 1,000 watts.

A megawatt of panel sales means $600,000 to $700,000 in revenue and a megawatt of project sales yields $2 million to $2.5 million for the company,

“We also sell to many smaller installers as well as distributors who then re-sell the product,” Yang said.

Stion was one of four alternative-energy project funded during the administration of former Gov. Haley Barbour. Among  other projects launched primarily because of the support  from Barbour, who served two, four-year terms ending in 2012, was Twin Creeks Technologies in Senatobia, in which the state invested $27.7 million but which never produced marketable solar panels and did did not come close to its commitment to create 1,500 jobs. It closed in late 2012.

The state leased the facility to ABB Low Voltage in December 2015. ABB, a Swiss firm, plans to hire 300 people over the next five years. Mississippi  gave ABB $3.5 million for infrastructure and training. Senatobia resumed making payments to the Mississippi Development Authority on $18 million it borrowed to build the structure.

KiOR, which said it would create 1,000 direct and indirect jobs in exchange for a $75 million loan from the Mississippi Development Authority, shut down in January 2014, laying off its work force of 100 without attaining acceptable levels and quality of fuel derived from wood chips. The agency filed suit in Hinds County Circuit Court, alleging fraud and conspiracy.

Mississippi Power Co.’s Kemper County  power plant has begun operating on natural gas — instead of a lignite-coal derived gas — but it is more than two years behind schedule and, at $6.7 billion, is more than two times the original projected cost of $2.9 billion. It is expected to commence operation with its patented synthetic gas system, derived from lignite coal mined nearby, later this year.

A company spokesman said the plant has 270 employees and expects the number to reach 300 when the plant is fully operational, not including 250 jobs at the lignite mine, which is owned by North American Coal .

 

About Jack Weatherly

One comment

  1. Mississippi is sure desperate to have somebody provide employment. They go after every renewable energy fraud possible. No sense in their government in wasting tax dollars.

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