$150M solar panel plant to be built in Westboro.


Byline: Kevin Keenan

MARLBORO - Evergreen Solar Inc. announced yesterday that it agreed to terms with Gov. Deval L. Patrick to double the size of its solar energy business in Massachusetts by building a new factory on state-owned land in Westboro.

The solar power products manufacturer made the announcement at its Marlboro science and engineering facility, with about 100 employees, Mr. Patrick and several state and local officials present. Mr. Patrick said he learned about Evergreen while campaigning for governor last fall, and that the company's new facility was being aggressively courted by other states.

"These are good jobs, livable wage jobs with a future," Mr. Patrick said. "I'm just so pleased we got the deal done."

Evergreen, founded in 1994, makes solar panels, wafers and cells. It patented "string ribbon" technology, which allows its solar wafers to be produced with about half as much silicon as conventional wafer manufacturing, and in fewer steps.

The company plans to build a $150 million plant in the Massachusetts Technology Park, the state-owned land off Milk Street in Westboro.

The state offered several incentives to Evergreen, including a $44 million financing package of grants and loans. About $23 million in shared grants will go to the company and to Westboro, which will benefit through infrastructure improvements. Evergreen will also get $17 million in loans from the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and Citizens Bank.

The company will lease the land for 30 years and save about $3 million, according to Mr. Patrick. Evergreen plans to open the new facility late next year.

The new facility will employ 350 workers, bringing the company's work force to about 700 employees, according to Evergreen. The Westboro manufacturing facility would generate about $546,000 in property taxes for the town, and will be located about three miles from Evergreen's Marlboro headquarters. The expanded work force means $16 million in new wages and benefits.

The deal could have a secondary impact on the state labor market by adding 1,000 more jobs for solar panel installation and maintenance, Mr. Patrick said.

Westboro does not qualify for tax incremental financing deals because it is not designated as an Economic Target Area by the state, so legislation is needed to give Evergreen a 5 percent investment tax credit, which is separate from a TIF deal, according to Mr. Patrick. The town is not involved...

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