Two Ohio “Green Energy” Companies Default on Millions in State Loans
Both Perrysburg-based Willard & Kelsey Solar Group (WK Solar) and Toledo-based Buckeye Silicon have defaulted on loans from the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA), The Toledo Blade has reported. WK Solar missed a September 12 final deadline to repay an OAQDA loan exceeding $5 million, and Buckeye Silicon has made late or reduced payments since December 2011.
In addition to defaulting on the OAQDA loan, WK Solar has until October 26 to pay off a balance of more than $4 million owed to the Ohio Department of Development. Buckeye Silicon has also received a $1.3 million Ohio Department of Development loan, the Blade reported.
WK Solar promised the Department of Development that the company would create 400 jobs, but has never employed more than 72 people. The company’s default on its OAQDA loan followed months of lenience from state officials.
When Buckeye Silicon, a wholly-owned subsidiary of California-based solar company Sphere Renewable Energy Corporation, opened its doors in 2009, executives projected the company would create a total of 100 jobs. As of an August 29 interview with the Blade, Buckeye Silicon employed a total of four people.
The OAQDA loans defaulted on by WK Solar and Buckeye Silicon have origins in a Republican-supported Ohio “stimulus” bill.
In June 2008, former governor Ted Strickland signed House Bill 554 (HB 554), a $1.57 billion spending package including a $150 million Advanced Energy Job Stimulus Fund. Funded by state bonds, the program was intended to “award funds to a portfolio of advanced energy projects that serve to attract new investment to Ohio, build upon Ohio’s manufacturing strength, advance energy technology development toward commercialization and prepare Ohio’s workforce for the future.”
HB 554 was introduced by Rep. Jay Hottinger, a Licking County Republican who remains in office today. “Yea” votes were cast by Rep. Chris Redfern, now the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, and Rep. Kevin DeWine, who served for two years as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party after leaving the Ohio House.
Secretary of State Jon Husted – a Republican who at the time was speaker of the House – also voted for HB 554, as did Republican Bill Batchelder, the current House speaker.
The 127th Ohio General Assembly, with both houses controlled by Republicans, passed HB 554 (also known as the Ohio Bipartisan Job Stimulus Plan) with 42 Republican representatives voting “Yea.” At the time, Senate President Bill Harris (R-Ashland) told reporters ”the investments we are endorsing today are critical for giving our state economy a much-needed boost in the right direction.”
Harris left the General Assembly in 2010.
After receiving taxpayer funds through the “green jobs” spending binge passed by a GOP-controlled General Assembly and signed by Democrat Ted Strickland, WK Solar executives allegedly misused taxpayer funds for personal vacations and sporting events with their families. Company executives also contributed thousands of dollars to Strickland’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign, and to the U.S. Senate campaign of then-lieutenant governor Lee Fisher.
OAQDA chairwoman Gayle Channing Tenenbaum announced that WK Solar had defaulted in August, saying “We do this with a heavy heart. We had hoped the solar industry would be able to take off under advanced energy in this state.” As The Columbus Dispatch reported, WK Solar is the first green-jobs company the OAQDA has ever declared to have defaulted on a loan in the commission’s 40-year history.