DOE apparently trying to push patent claims with 1366 Technologies
While it still may be a long shot for 1366 Technologies to build its solar wafer manufacturing plant in Genesee County any time soon, there is apparently an ongoing conflict between the company and the Department of Energy. Some industry observers seem to think it could hinder the company's plans to build its first factory in Southeast Asia.
DOE officials believe the United States has a possible claim on 1366 technology tied to grants DOE had given the company over the past eight years. In a review of the 1366 product exclusion petition under the solar tariff, DOE said "it came to light" that the company also had patents not reported as part of its DOE funding process.
DOE and 1366 would not provide documents describing in detail the conditions attached to DOE's grants.
"The department takes seriously its responsibility to protect its intellectual property rights and the parties' obligations under funding agreements," said department press secretary Shaylyn Hynes.
Laureen Sanderson, spokesperson for 1366, wouldn't comment on the dispute except to say, "We are working with the DOE to resolve any misunderstanding."
In 2009, when the DOE was part of the Obama Administration, the department made a $150 million loan guarantee to 1366. That was apparently contingent on the company securing a U.S. site for manufacturing and raising $100 million in private financing. The company selected a site in Alabama's Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park -- AKA the STAMP project -- (though a DOE spokesperson later denied 1366 had made such a selection) but fell about $10 million short as of the fall of 2017 in its private investment goal.
To what degree that was the real sticking point in negotiations is hard to say based on available information, but at the beginning of the year 1366 announced it was withdrawing its application for the loan guarantee and planning a factory in Southeast Asia.
The ongoing conflict with the DOE came to light when 1366 applied for an exemption for its component in a planned tariff on solar panels manufactured in China.
A DOE spokesperson contacted by The Batavian last week did not respond to a request for comment.
If 1366 were to shift focus again and seek to return to STAMP the company would, of course, be welcome, said Steve Hyde, CEO of Genesee County Economic Development Center. He said GCEDC has not been contacted by the company, however. If it did come to that, just because of the passage of time, there would need to be new negotiations.
"But I’m sure that things could be put in place that are very similar," Hyde said.
It's unclear, and 1366 isn't saying, how far along the company is with its Southeast Asia plant.