Solar plan in China's Inner Mongolia highlights pitfalls for U.S. firms
With great fanfare, an Arizona-based energy company signed a preliminary agreement with China last fall to build the world's largest solar-power plant in the Mongolian desert.
The deal was hailed as the first major example of the United States and China cooperating on a big-ticket energy project, and the largest foray by a U.S. company into Asia's fast-growing alternative- energy market. The agreement became a centerpiece achievement of President Obama's visit to China last November.
Nearly a year later, the deal has not been completed and there is growing skepticism as to whether it will happen.
Chinese competitors in the solar business have complained openly about the U.S. company, First Solar, getting such a lucrative contract. A planned June 1 date to break ground has been missed. Government officials from the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia, where the plant would be built, say they plan to open the project to competitive bidding.
Many solar-industry insiders now say the deal, outlined in a "memorandum of understanding," was mainly a showpiece for Chinese officials to demonstrate support for one of Obama's signature initiatives, strategic energy cooperation....MORE