by Amy Martinez
Updated 8 months ago
Last spring, with the help of $3.4 million in city and state incentives, Shanghai-based JinkoSolar, the world’s largest solar-panel manufacturer, announced plans to open its first U.S. factory in Jacksonville.
JinkoSolar says it will use the $50-million plant to fulfill a four-year contract with Juno Beach-based NextEra Energy, the parent company of FPL. During the next decade, FPL will need thousands of panels as it increases its solar capacity from 1,250 megawatts to 11,000 megawatts, enough to power more than 2 million homes.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry praised JinkoSolar’s announcement, saying it will enhance the city’s reputation for manufacturing.
Manufacturing solar panels isn’t nearly as clean as the energy they produce. The process involves a number of caustic chemicals and produces toxic waste.
Jeff Juger, director of business development for JinkoSolar, notes that solar panels will be assembled at the facility, not manufactured there. Expected discharges at the Jacksonville facility are “well within Florida Department of Environmental Protection limits,” he says. “The little hazardous waste that is produced will be housed in a dedicated room, and we have already contracted with a licensed third party to dispose of that material responsibly.”
The Chinese company has improved its environmental performance in recent years. A 2014 ranking of 37 solar manufacturers by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC), a San Francisco-based non-profit, rated JinkoSolar among the eight worst for sustainability and transparency.
At the time, JinkoSolar faced a shareholder lawsuit over allegations that it had dumped toxic waste into a river near one of its factories in China. The company ultimately settled the suit for $5 million.
Just three years later, however, JinkoSolar ranked among the five best panel manufacturers in SVTC’s Solar Scorecard, rating especially well for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and water use.
JinkoSolar began pilot production at the Jacksonville plant in November. When fully operational, the plant will employ 200 people and build 1 million solar panels a year, the company says.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Robert Massey resigned as CEO of the Jacksonville Symphony to pursue another arts-related venture, which he did not specify. Massey joined the symphony in January 2015. Teresa Kennedy, a 20- year veteran of Walt Disney World, joined the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens as its first COO.
Pulte Homes bought 22 acres in Nocatee for an age-restricted, 55-andover development with 320 lots. Jacksonville’s old City Hall Annex building was demolished to make way for redevelopment. The Florida Times-Union will move to leased office space on the second floor of the Wells Fargo Tower in downtown Jacksonville. GateHouse Media bought the newspaper from Morris Communications in 2017. The Morris family still owns the paper’s Riverside Avenue building in the Brooklyn neighborhood.
Baptist Medical Center began renovating the maternity department at its downtown Jacksonville campus. The $16-million project, which includes updated birthing and postpartum rooms, is to be completed in early 2020.
Collins Aerospace, formerly United Technologies Aerospace Systems, will use a new warehouse at Jacksonville’s Imeson International Industrial Park to make parts for clients that include the U.S. Department of Defense.
WinSupply, an Ohio distributor of construction and industrial supplies and equipment, is building a regional distribution center at Westside Industrial Park in Jacksonville. Preferred Freezer Services is seeking $1.2 million in city grants to develop a 222,824-sq.-ft. cold storage distribution center in northwest Jacksonville.
Jacksonville-based VyStar Credit Union is acquiring Citizens State Bank. Financial terms were not disclosed. After the deal is completed, VyStar will have 69 branches and nearly $8.7 billion in assets.
Jacksonville-based Winn-Dixie opened a bar serving beer and wine inside its newly renovated store in Neptune Beach. WD’s Taproom sells local craft brews for $2 a pint and 5-ounce glasses of wine for $3. The Taproom is part of an initiative to refresh stores as Winn-Dixie emerges from bankruptcy. The Gainesville City Commission voted unanimously to ban plastic shopping bags and polystyrene carry-out food containers. Enforcement of the ban will begin in August. Violating businesses face a $250 fine.
Venture capitalist Lee Fixel and his wife, Lauren, gave the University of Florida $20 million to establish the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases. UF will match their gift. Norman Fixel, Lee Fixel’s father, graduated from UF in 1975. Lauren Fixel also is a UF graduate. Dr. Todd Golde, executive director of the McKnight Brain Institute at UF, says the Fixels’ donation will enable researchers to “rapidly double down in the area of Parkinson’s disease.” The UF College of Veterinary Medicine will launch an open-heart surgery program for dogs this year. The program will be the only one in the U.S. to offer a complex procedure called mitral valve repair, UF says. Karen Bowling became director of the new Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of North Florida. Bowling had led Thrive Consulting in Jacksonville. She has a bachelor’s degree from UNF. UNF partnered with the Clay County School District to create professional development schools for teachers at Grove Park Elementary, Orange Park Junior High and Orange Park High.
Read more in our March issue.
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