The state of Ohio continues to assist in the development of the region’s growing solar photovoltaic sector, with the award of nearly $1.7 million in job training funds to four area companies: First Solar, Xunlight, Buckeye Silicon, and Nextronex. The grants represent the first monies distributed by the state’s Energizing Careers Program, which was launched in June with a budget of $6 million made possible through Recovery Act funds directed through the U.S. Department of Labor.
The program, administered by a unit of the state’s Department of Development, reimburses the cost of customized training up to $6000 for full-time employees, with preferential project funding to companies located in those counties most affected by the downturn in the automotive industry.
A second round of requests for proposals will be announced soon for other companies interested in expanding workforce training in the advanced energy manufacturing sector.
The four solar awardees will use the funds to train nearly 800 existing and new employees. Workers will be instructed in quality control, lean manufacturing practices, machining, welding, and other skills, and will receive their training either onsite at the companies or through local community colleges and universities.
Thin-film market leader First Solar will receive up to $1,025,760 for the training of as many as 600 workers to manufacture its cadmium telluride modules, while fellow TFPV firm Xunlight will get up to $229,000 for training some 85 employees as the company develops and manufactures its flexible tandem-junction amorphous silicon modules.
Buckeye Silicon will garner as much as $239,000 for training up to 70 employees as it scales its low-cost, energy-efficient solar-grade polysilicon production facility. On the balance of systems side, Nextronex Energy Systems will receive up to $210,000 to instruct 35 employees in manufacturing its solar inverters and energy maximization system components for small utility-scale PV power plants.
In another action affecting solar companies in the state, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland has signed an executive order “implementing the elimination of Ohio’s tangible personal property tax and real property tax for advanced and renewable energy project facilities.”
The elimination will affect projects that begin construction before Jan. 1, 2012, and produce energy by 2013. The law exempts qualified energy facilities from tangible personal property and real property taxes, and, instead, levies drastically lower service payments based on the project’s energy production levels and their commitment to Ohio jobs, according to the governor’s office.