A lot of reporters were looking forward to asking Gov. Bill Richardson at a press conference this afternoon about the CDR/GRIP grand jury. One TV station reportedly was even running promos about that.
However, right after announcing a new solar facility in Belen and taking a few questions about that project, Richardson announced the conference was over and bolted out of the room, ignoring questions about the grand jury.
Ironically, the new solar project will be part of the Rancho Cielo project, right off a planned new interchange off I-25. That interchange prompted news stories a couple of years ago because the developers, RS Investments, now known as Coast Range Investments contributed $75,000 to Richardson's 2006 re-election campaign.
Richardson might think questions about this will go away if he just ignores the questions. But I don't think so.
Here's the official news release on the new solar production facility:
Governor Bill Richardson Announces Signet Solar to Build Production Facility in Belen Creating 600 Jobs
SANTA FE-Governor Bill Richardson today announced Signet Solar will build the company’s first North American solar panel production facility in Belen. The first phase of the plant will bring 200 high-wage jobs to the state and is scheduled to begin operations in 2010. Signet’s long-term plans call for expansion and the creation of a total of 600 jobs.
“As Governor, I’ve been dedicated to making New Mexico a national leader of renewable energy and the creation of green jobs,” Governor Bill Richardson said. “At a time of economic uncertainty, this project will create hundreds of jobs and reaffirm New Mexico as a clean energy state and major player in our nation’s effort build a new clean energy economy.”
The Signet facility will produce large area thin-film silicon photovoltaic modules for commercial rooftop and ground mounted solar power systems. The first phase of the plant will have an annual production capacity of 65MW — enough to power approximately 20,000 homes. Long-term plans call to increase production capacity to 300MW per year with a 600,000 square foot production facility.
“New Mexico was an obvious starting point for Signet Solar’s expansion into the growing US renewable energy market,” said Rajeeva Lahri, Signet Solar’s Co-Founder and CEO. “Under Governor Richardson’s leadership, New Mexico has demonstrated commitment to renewable energy through public-private partnerships, leveraging its skilled workforce and world class research institutions.”
The 75-acre facility is situated 30 minutes south of Albuquerque on Rancho Cielo, a Coast Range Investments property in Belen. Signet will be the first company to set up manufacturing in the 6,000 acre Rancho Cielo master planned industrial and residential community. Rancho Cielo plans to use Signet panels on a 700 acre solar farm designed to meet the majority of power requirements of the Rancho Cielo community.
“Partnering with Signet Solar, we are excited about bringing such high quality jobs to Belen and the possibility of creating a sustainable green city in New Mexico,” said Jim Foster, Managing Partner of Coast Range Investment.
Headquartered in Menlo Park, California, Signet is the first mover in large area silicon thin film silicon PV technology. Signet began shipping product to customers from its first plant near Dresden, Germany in October of this year. The company has already installed several commercial rooftop and ground mounted systems in the region. Signet’s large-area thin-film silicon PV technology will bring down the cost of solar power and can be used for solar farms, large commercial installations, building integrated photovoltaics and remote habitation.
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