Yingli: still debating solar plant site

January 13, 2010

By Jacob Dirr Staff Writer
Austin Business Journal

Despite indications Chinese solar giant Yingli is building its North American operations, research and development hub in Phoenix, the company is remaining coy.

Yingli Green Energy Holding Company Ltd. (NYSE: YGE) officials said they are still evaluating several potential sites, according to a press release today. But if the company does decide to build in Austin, it would forfeit $4.5 million in tax credits, according to a federal spokeswoman.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded Yingli the multi-million dollar credit in exchange for constructing a large solar manufacturing facility in Phoenix, according to an application filed last year.

Last October, local business and economic sources said Austin was competing with five other cities for the project. But Yingli has not confirmed plans either way, according to the Austin Chamber of Commerce vice president for economic development.

"They were here just last week," chamber Vice President Dave Porter said today.

The chamber is now trying to determine what the DOE awards mean for Austin’s chances to win Yingli.

In Arizona, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council has talked with Yingli, but the company has not committed, said Barry Broome, the group’s president and CEO.

Some speculated Yingli would be allowed to build its plant in another community, even though it listed the Arizona capital for its project location on a federal tax credit application, but after some internal fact checking, the DOE said today that is not true.

"If a project moves states then it is no longer eligible" for the federal tax credit, a DOE spokeswoman said in an email.

Meanwhile, it appears that Yingli has submitted applications for Austin and Texas incentives, although none have been granted yet, according to sources.

A state spokeswoman said this week it does not comment on economic incentives until they are official.

A top Austin city hall source said staff has not yet talked with Yingli about incentives.

On Monday, business and economic development officials in San Antonio, where Yingli also considered building, confirmed their city was definitely no longer on the table.

Yingli seemed focused on Phoenix during the later stages of negotiations, according to Mario Hernandez, president of the
San Antonio Economic Development Foundation
.

If the Chinese clean energy superpower does select Phoenix, it would mark the second time in four months Arizona has landed a major foreign solar company over Austin.

Patrick O’Grady, staff writer at the Phoenix Business Journal, contributed to this report.

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