A secret project, especially one seeking $54 million in city and state tax incentives and potentially hiring 1,000 employees, raises the question:
Who is it?
Project Volt, which seeks $53.9 million in tax refunds, credits and forgiveness and in training grants from the city and state, wasn’t identified in city legislation filed Thursday for introduction Tuesday to City Council.
The Mayor’s Budget Review Committee authorized the city’s portion of the incentives Monday. Those add up to $24.6 million in tax incentives and property tax rebates.
Kirk Wendland, executive director of the mayor’s Office of Economic Development, said Volt has the potential to increase its job goal to 1,000, which would raise the city’s incentives. The committee approved that.
The project summary said Volt makes solar panels and modules and wants to hire 800 people in Jacksonville to make and assemble the products, as well as set up a U.S. headquarters, by year-end 2019.
Based on the information in the legislation and the status of the solar-panel industry, here’s a guess about who it could be:
Shanghai-based JinkoSolar Holding Corp.
This is why.
• The city’s project summary dated Jan. 4 refers to Volt as a leading international manufacturer of solar panels and modules that sells products to a broad “utility, commercial and residential customer base.”
JinkoSolar calls itself a global leader in the solar industry that sells to a diversified international “utility, commercial and residential customer base.” It also refers to “solar modules.”
• The summary: Volt has “eight production facilities” across the globe.
JinkoSolar: It has more than 15,000 employees across its “8 production facilities” globally.
• A Google search Friday for “JinkoSolar Jacksonville FL” found two LinkedIn job entries whose links don’t work but that referred to Jacksonville jobs. The jobs were posted four days earlier.
One is “Sr. HR Manager Job at Jinko Solar Co., Ltd. in Jacksonville, Florida” for a “Human Resources Manager (Generalist) Leading and taking charge of all spectrums in HR department.”
Another is “HR Talent Acquisition Section Head Job at Jinko Solar Co., Ltd.” in the “Jacksonville, Florida, area” and describes JinkoSolar as a global leader in the solar industry. “RESPONSIBILITIES: Plan, review and implement hiring strategies to fulfill company’s man po…”
The search results entry went on: “Currently the world’s largest crystalline module manufacturer, JinkoSolar has built a vertically integrated solar product value chain, with an integrated annual capacity of 3.5 GW for silicon ingots and wafers.”
And “The Company distributes its solar products and sells its solutions and services to a diversified international …”
Just to tie together that connection, JinkoSolar’s website says: “JinkoSolar distributes its solar products and sells its solutions and services to a diversified international utility, commercial and residential customer base in” at least 15 countries along with other countries and regions.
But opening those entries found the message: “The job you were looking for was not found.”
As of Sunday evening, the entries did not show up on a Google search.
JinkoSolar Investor Relations Director Sebastian Liu did not return two emails for comment.
Wendland said Monday he had no comment about the identity of Volt.
The project summary said Volt anticipates using JaxPort – the Port of Jacksonville – for a large volume of importing and exporting activities. It says a majority of the manufacturing materials will be sourced from China, at least in the first few years of the operation.
As for the name, Project Volt, it seems to make sense for a solar products manufacturer. Consider that JinkoSolar Co. Ltd. calls itself a “rapidly growing, vertically integrated photovoltaic module manufacturer.”
JinkoSolar Holding Co. Ltd. is publicly traded. It maintains an office for JinkoSolar (U.S.) Inc. in San Francisco.
JinkoSolar.com says the San Francisco offices are at Suite 2200 in 595 Market St.
The 30-story Class A building is in the heart of the financial district of downtown.
JinkoSolar says it was established in 2006 and publicly listed on the NYSE in 2010.
In October 2010, JinkoSolar Holding Co. Ltd. in China announced it established a U.S. subsidiary with an office in San Francisco that was expected to function as a marketing and service base “to increase JinkoSolar's brand recognition and facilitate business development in strategic markets within North America.”
Nigel Cockroft is the general manager of San Francisco-based JinkoSolar (U.S.) Inc. and is responsible for PV Module Sales and Operations in the US and Canada.
The company says Cockroft “has been an integral contributor to the growth of JinkoSolar (US) from approximately 10th position to becoming a top 3 PV panel supplier, delivering over 1.5 GW to the United States market since joining the company 3 years ago.”
Cockroft did not return a call.
Project Volt proposes to set up its first U.S. manufacturing and assembly operation in Jacksonville and the city also will serve as the company’s national headquarters, according to the project summary.
“Since we began in 2006, we have climbed our way to be the world’s third-largest solar panel manufacturer by capacity,” says jinkosolar.com/us.careers. That site does not list job opportunities.
The Seeking Alpha transcript from JinkoSolar’s third-quarter earnings call with stock analysts doesn’t refer to a new location.
It does show that JinkoSolar finds the Chinese market will account for 50 percent of the global demand this year while “we’re still optimistic that the global demand will be strong.”
JinkoSolar and other solar product manufacturers await a decision by Jan. 26 from President Donald Trump about U.S. tariffs on imported solar panels.
The U.S. International Trade Commission recommended in October that Trump impose tariffs of as much as 35 percent on imported panels.
Bloomberg reported a New York analyst to say that even with tariffs, U.S. developers likely would rely on Chinese manufacturers for solar panels.
“There’s an extremely low likelihood that the U.S. will ever manufacture enough equipment to meet its own domestic needs,” analyst Hugh Bromley told Bloomberg.
The future of the solar industry, said CEO Kangping Chen in the earnings call, “has never been brighter.”