MiaSole, the dormant Hanergy-owned thin-film solar company, received $5 to $10 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to support a reported 160 employees, according to a Washington Post database of loan information from the Small Business Administration and Treasury Department. The loans were approved in April.
Mike Ma, VP of global business development at MiaSole, confirmed that the company did apply for and receive the loan. Ma told pv magazine, “All the funding has been used to pay salaries as planned. We are still facing tremendous challenges due to the extended impact of the pandemic.”
Ma would not disclose the employee headcount. The reported number is 160 employees according to the database, but that figure does not match up with earlier reporting. Additionally, a former Hanergy employee told pv magazine that there is a “small crew of employees, doing what, I’m not sure, and almost certainly not 160 people as they apparently claimed in the PPP application.” An ex-MiaSole employee told pv magazine, “MiaSole is alive, but only just. It is still in a shutdown situation, with a skeleton staff.”
A source suggested that the PPP loan money was used to provide backpay for the unpaid MiaSole employees — a great outcome for the employees, but not the intent of the pandemic-relief program.
MiaSole’s struggles predate the pandemic
In 2013, China’s Hanergy acquired gallium-arsenide solar developer Alta Devices and CIGS thin-film solar firms MiaSole, Solibro and Global Solar. With little synergy among the acquired firm’s VC-funded technologies, Hanergy’s solar shopping spree appeared less than focused.
In December of last year, Hanergy “furloughed” almost all its U.S. employees and halted manufacturing at the three solar companies — including MiaSole.
At the time, Atiye Bayman, the CTO at MiaSole, told pv magazine, “MiaSole is on a temporary production shutdown to reduce cost through the holiday season.” Bayman is no longer with the company, according to LinkedIn and by all indications, that production shutdown is still in effect.
Incomplete and confusing data
The Post database comes with a warning about “the incomplete and sometimes-confusing aspects of the data. Among the loan recipients, 48,922 reported zero as the number of jobs they would retain with the money, and 40,506 applicants appeared to leave that section blank. And several of the data points appear to be inaccurate: The Washington Post identified businesses in the database that had reported returning the funds earlier, and some businesses contacted The Post to say their inclusion in the SBA database contains incorrect loan ranges.”
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