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Conway tours Brightsource plant in Israel

Assemblywoman Connie Conway toured Brightsource Energy’s Solar Energy Development Center in Israel’s Negev Desert as part of a study tour of the nation Dec. 11 to 18. The trip, valued at $5,281.94, was paid for by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. The items were listed on Conway’s Statement of Economic Interests form, or Form 700, which the state Fair Political Practices Commission released Thursday.

Conway toured the facility on Dec. 18 and had lunch with Brightsource officials, records show.
The Solar Energy Development Center is a small-scale demonstration plant that showcases the same technology used at the company’s domestic projects, Brightsource spokesperson Kristin Hunter said.

Conway’s current district includes Barstow and is home to Brightsource’s Ivanpah Valley solar energy project in San Bernardino County, as well as the proposed Hidden Hills project in Inyo County. Conway is running for reelection in a new, more geographically compact district that includes Inyo County and parts of Tulare County. The new district does not include Barstow or the Ivanpah project.

Sabrina Lockhart, a spokesperson for Conway’s office, said the trip focused on energy, economic development and natural resource management. Israel’s solar power industry is relevant because it has been successful in creating jobs without government subsidies, Lockhart said.

Colo. solar company lays off workers

Abound Solar of Colorado announced plans to lay off 180 of its 400 workers this week and halt production at its factory, according to news reports.

The company received a $400 million loan from the Department of Energy in 2010 and has drawn $70 million of the funds. The company produces solar panels at its Longmont, Colo., factory.

Chief Financial Officer Steve Abelysaid told the Associated Press the company hopes to rehire the employees in six to nine months after it has retooled its equipment and manufacturing processes.

The company said it plans to debut its next model of solar panels, which will be more efficient.
When it accepted the loan, the company agreed to build its Colorado factory as well as a second facility in Tipton, Ind., that the state’s Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels supported.
The Department of Energy’s loan program has come under increased scrutiny since Fremont-based solar panel manufacturer Solyndra went bankrupt last year. The company had received $535 million in federal loans.

House committee to hold hearings on energy budget

Congressmen will question Energy Secretary Stephen Chu about the Energy Department’s budget requests for the new fiscal year Thursday at the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power. The department says its budget aims to reduce the cost of solar energy by 75 percent so that it is price competitive without subsidies within a decade.

Republicans have been critical of Chu, including at a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing where the Energy Secretary spoke Wednesday. Some Republicans blamed Chu for the nation’s rising gasoline prices.

Chu said he wanted prices to come down but there are “no single magic bullets” for doing so, according to news reports.

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