Environment
1:38 pm
Mon September 16, 2013

Lights Go Out in Menomonee Valley Helios Solar Plant

A sea of Helios panels follow the sun at a solar farm in rural Walworth County.
A sea of Helios panels follow the sun at a solar farm in rural Walworth County.

Its website shows no sign of change, but Helios Solar Works shut down operations in its Menomonee Valley plant.

The sophisticated robot-driven factory opened three years ago and earlier this year employed 36 people, a number of whom were military veterans. The company hoped to move from two to three shifts.

Those plans perished last week when operations halted and the company filed for receivership.  That is a state court mechanism similar to bankruptcy.

A combination of venture capital and taxpayer support, as well as the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped Helios come to life.  Advocates held high hopes that the company would help pave the way for more renewable energy related businesses in Milwaukee.  Company officials say Helios faced relentless pressure from more cheaply-priced panels produced in China.

Helios did have a sizable local project in the works.  The Milwaukee Public Museum planned to replace the marble facade that covers its eight-story tower with 234 Helios solar panels.