Money for nothing and PV for free

Didyou know that United Solar Ovonics may now be giving photovoltaic solarsystems away for free, just for the asking? Expecting nothing inreturn… The latest such "donation," according to the local press, is a solar system worth $20,000 "that will be mounted later this month on a section of the roof over the front door" of Governor Granholm’s residence. Allegedly, the "panels will provide about $300 of electricity a year," meaning the system would never pay off if it were actually bought(the panels are warranted just for 20 years, at 80% rated power,according to the datasheets,and the system will probably require an extra inverter replacement in10 years). But this lucky resident need not be concerned with suchthings as return on investment that regular folks care about. As thesong goes, "lemme tell ya them guys ain’t dumb."
 
So,for those of you looking for a free solar system, you may want to call248-293-0440 and ask for Mr. Jay Knoll, who is the Vice President,General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer of Energy ConversionDevices. Don’t mind that he hails from a fraud!He should be happy to answer your inquiries and explain exactly how youcan take delivery of your free PV system. No need to rush – in theMarch quarter Unisolar reportedproduction of 33MWs worth of panels and shipments of less than 21MWs.So they must have had plenty of inventories at March end (by myestimate, enough for over 4,000 systems such as the Governor’s) …
 
And, in case you have any doubts about the quality of the PV panels, don’t worry! The U.S. Commerce Secretary, accompanied by representatives of Governor Granholm, unequivocally stated last month that he "think[s]" Unisolar have "a superior product," and encouraged them to "keep up the good work.” In fact, he "promised to see if United Solar’s product could be used to generate electricity for the White House." I mean, if a high-ranking government official doesn’t mind a fire on the rooftop and system underperformance, why should you? On a side note, what happened to the current 9kW solar system at the White House?
 
Or, if you are concerned about the future of Unisolar(like will it be around to fulfill that 20-year warranty, if needed),have no doubts! Governor Granholm, just after looking at the "solar film panels that were rejected at the quality control" declared last year that the "ending of this story is a great story." Soon thereafter, she made a promise: "Weare working hard to become the alternative energy capital of NorthAmerica and United Solar’s decision to invest and grow in Michiganshows that our efforts are producing results. We will continue topartner with United Solar to diversify our economy and create newenergy jobs…" By partnering she meant things like "projectsubsidies [that] went well beyond the SBT credit… Michigan grantedthe [Greenville] plant site 15 years of tax- free operations as part ofthe Renaissance Zone program, a benefit worth $20.4 million to UnitedSolar. (The state designated all of Greenville Industrial Park aRenaissance Zone in 2004.) State support also includes employee-training assistance valued at about $2 million. Greenville, too,chipped in with deal- sealing incentives. The city is providing UnitedSolar with a 12- year tax abatement worth $3.6 million. In addition,the city is receiving an MEDC- approved $5-million federal CommunityDevelopment Block Grant for infrastructure improvements in GreenvilleIndustrial Park; United Solar has purchased a 93-acre (37-hectare) sitein the park. " And this year, at the State of the State Address, she challenged the skeptics: "Askthe former Electrolux workers in Greenville who now manufacture solarpanels for United Solar Ovonic. Ask them, and they will tell you whatit feels like to earn a good wage in an industry that is growing byleaps and bounds." While a $11-13 an hour (slide 57)starting wage might be considered a good wage by some people who getstuff for free, if the 82% yoy decline in ECD’s EPS in the Marchquarter is viewed as growing by leaps and bounds, one has to wonderwhat more moderate growth looks like. But, hey, Unisolar has become the"strong anchor for Michigan’s alternative energy industry," in Governor Granholm’s own words. Didn’t the laws of gravity require a strong anchor to sink to the bottom first? After all, according to the Governor, GM (which just wiped out its shareholders) and ECD are not that different: "Both companies demonstrate Michigan values, ECD for its leadership in solarand GM for its dedication to technological advancements, socialresponsibility and sustainability. Together, they illustrate Michigan’sfuture as a global center for alternative energy excellence."
 
So, when not shipping free solar systems and not being in "hiatus," Unisolar’s employees must be busy reviewing the detailed ECD’s Code of Business Conduct, which on page 9, states that "EnergyConversion Devices, its employees and those who act on its behalf mustnot offer, pay or accept bribes. We must not offer or give money oranything else of value, if this would constitute either an improperinducement to make, or a reward for making, any decision favorable tothe interests of Energy Conversion Devices. This includes providingimproper benefits of any kind to government officials,suppliers or customers. It also includes providing benefits tocharities, companies or individuals, if these benefits would provide animproper inducement or reward. We do not permit any third party workingon our behalf to engage in this type of conduct."
 
In the mean time, "Granholmsaid she expected to hear Friday or Monday that the state’s energy planhas gotten federal approval, paving the way for Michigan to use itsshare of energy dollars from the recovery act…" One only has to wonder how long before the no-bid contracts start flowing and the $36 million en-greening project gets the green light.

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