Clean Energy

Struggling Solar Firm Took Big Subsidies from Feds, Arizona

Nice use of taxpayer money

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Two years ago, when the Legislature considered reining in handouts to the solar industry by the Arizona Corporation Commission, the hearing room was packed with lobbyists opposing the move. Solar subsidies, they argued, were the cornerstone of the state's job creation program.

Their poster child was Suntech, a large Chinese firm whose Goodyear solar panel factory was hailed as proof that government economic planning works. Indeed, when Suntech announced its plant in 2010, Gov. Jan Brewer proclaimed it the result of "the right incentive program to make business sense."

Three years later, Suntech is shuttering the Goodyear plant and laying off its 43 remaining workers. But not before it pocketed $1.5 million in tax breaks from the state, $2.1 million from the federal government, and $500,000 in job training from the city. Goodyear also waived its plan review requirements and permit fees. Not for all firms, mind you, just for this one particular Chinese company with its grandiose promises.