Pat Doyle’s article “Is Minnesota’s subsidy of the solar industry a good investment – or a cautionary tale?” fails to mention that the vast majority of the “perks” mentioned didn’t flow to Silicon Energy. Indeed, if the state is picking winners and losers, as Art Rolnick is quoted as stating, why has 80 percent of the “perks” (incentives) over the last few years flowed to a single company based in Bloomington, and further, why is that company not mentioned in the article? They are the real winners, and the article never even suggests that others benefited.
Last year, one Made in Minnesota manufacturer cornered over 95 percent of the Made in Minnesota solar incentives from the state. Yet Doyle failed to report the mere existence of that company, or the other two solar companies in Minnesota that now are qualified to receive state incentives.
Silicon Energy, as a result of the Made in Minnesota solar legislation, invested over $10 million in the state and located its manufacturing plant in the most economically challenged part of the state as a result of a solar incentive that flowed not directly to us, but to customers who installed solar. Silicon Energy has had to compete, within the “Made in Minnesota” market, against a cheaper competitor whose products have historically been largely manufactured in Shanghai, China. Do you think this deserves some mention?
The fact is, there would not be much of a Minnesota solar industry without the Made in Minnesota legislation. Installers, electricians, architects and balance of systems represent over 50 percent of the installed cost of a solar system. There are now four companies qualified and competing to receive “Made in Minnesota” under the current law and prices have dramatically decreased while solar installations have increased in the state since legislation was passed. Why were these facts omitted from the article?
And it may not fit the author’s story line about political donations, but a factual look would show our supporters sent contributions to over half a dozen Republicans. But you didn’t seek truth, only sensationalism.
For the record:
- Silicon Energy has never been in default of any loan agreement or lease agreement in Minnesota. All payments have been as agreed.
- Contrary to assertions otherwise, Silicon Energy has not been the recipient of any state subsidy. Our loans and leases are at market rates and guaranteed by our majority owner.
- Since Silicon Energy’s related campaign contributions over the past 6-7 years are described in detail, where is the comparative analysis for donations made by our primary competitor (who received the vast majority of incentives to date)?
- Not one solar expert is quoted in your article, instead only Rolnick, who has no particular solar expertise. Silicon Energy has historically struggled for a variety of reasons in Minnesota, including the state incentive structure, the fact that our products are differentiated from the standard commodity module design, and because the legislation (as modified as an accommodation to a competitor) allows assembly of solar modules to qualify as “made in Minnesota.”
I see this article a classic case of lazy, biased reporting that is targeting a single company that is struggling in an economically depressed area. Meanwhile, stadiums get built for rich owners, millions fly out the door to Destination Medical Centers, the Chamber lines up for business tax breaks, millions are spent on campaigns, and you go after a small company that is helping to diversify the Iron Range towards renewable energy manufacturing. A small company that pays union wages and benefits, full property taxes, and whose owner has personally guaranteed every loan. And one of the few new manufacturing companies that have risked their capital to invest on the Iron Range.
Shame on you.
John Carroll is senior vice president of Silicon Energy.
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