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  • Writer's pictureMLWA 7

Violet Power of Oregon looking to build a solar factory in Moses Lake.

- Moses Lake, WA

An Oregon solar start up company is looking to build a solar factory in Moses Lake making it the nation's first integrated solar module and panel factory.

The Columbia Basin Herald out of Moses Lake reported that the company Violet based out of Oregon is looking to build a factory to free United States dependency from importing Chinese solar products. China accounts for nearly 90% of all global solar products. In early 2019 China placed steep tariffs on REC’s solar-grade silicon, effectively blocking the company from selling to Chinese solar module producers. The tariffs affected REC tremendously causing a 500 employee layoff and the start of a trickling number of debt, including a $9.2 USD million outstanding property tax bill with the county. The tariffs also added the shutdown of production in mid 2019.

The Herald also reported,

“This is really, really exciting,” said Francine Sullivan, vice president for business development at REC Silicon, which has been leading the talks with Violet Power. “There’s a huge solar market in the U.S., but no one’s making modules here.”

Currently, REC owes back taxes of $4.85 million along with an additional $4.32 million in interest and penalties on its 206-acre production facility near the corner of Wheeler Road and Road N Northeast in Moses Lake. In quarterly earnings reports since late 2018, REC Silicon President and CEO Tore Torvund said the company has been looking at alternative uses for its sole product — nearly pure silicon gas — either to improve rechargeable batteries or in domestic solar panel production.

The Columbia Basin Herald also talked with Violet Power discussing their choice and why they chose to build in MOses Lake.

Violet Power is proposing “a state of the art solar manufacturing facility” in Moses Lake “which will free the U.S. from dependence on imported Chinese solar panels while fabricating and delivering complete solar systems that are cyber secure at an industrial scale,” according to a company proposal.

Sullivan said Violet Power is looking at locating across the road from REC’s plant in order to have access to the company’s “low-cost silicon.”

“They’ve been to Moses Lake and looked at the site,” she said.

Sullivan said that if the tax deal could be worked out, Violet Power presents “an interesting opportunity” for high-tech manufacturing and job development that would be good for the “general overall health” of the region.

“This is a unique opportunity for Grant County,” she said.

The Norwegian based company REC headquartered in Fornebu, came under fire after their CEO's annual salary compensation was more than other CEOs in the industry. REC's CEO compensation was reported as US$992k for the year to December 2019. That’s a fairly small increase of 4.4% over the previous year. In particular, the salary of US$807.6k, makes up a huge portion of the total compensation being paid to the CEO. In comparison with other companies in the industry with market capitalizations under kr1.9b, the reported median total CEO compensation was US$331k. Accordingly, our analysis reveals that REC Silicon ASA pays Tore Torvund north of the industry median.

By: Charles H. Featherstone at Columbia Basin Herald & MLWA 7

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