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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Micron to curtail LED lighting program

At least 30 employees will be laid off

Associated Press

BOISE – Micron Technology Inc. said it will lay off at least 30 workers as it retreats on plans to develop energy-efficient lighting technology, a move that marks the latest blow to alternative energy initiatives in Idaho.

The Boise-based computer chip maker started the LED light technology program in 2009 with the help of $5 million in federal economic stimulus cash.

The division once had 170 employees. After the layoffs, 30 workers will remain with the program, Micron spokesman Dan Francisco confirmed in a story Wednesday in the Idaho Statesman.

Another 110 workers have taken other jobs with Micron.

The company said it plans to try to license its technology instead of building LEDs itself.

Increased competition in the market, a changing world economy and a decision to focus on computer memory led Micron executives to narrow the focus on the development of LED technology, Francisco said.

“I had heard the scuttlebutt that LED was not performing,” said Mike Howard, a former Micron employee who is now a semiconductor analyst in Boise for market researcher IHS iSupply.

The move makes sense for the company, he added.

It isn’t the first time a Micron energy-related venture has stalled.

Earlier this year, the company abandoned a joint solar energy venture with an Australian partner, putting 250 people out of work.

Other Idaho alternative energy companies have struggled as well.

Hoku Corp.’s $400 million Pocatello solar polysilicon plant has been mothballed; Boise-based Exergy Development Group has suspended hundreds of millions worth of wind and biogas projects; and the state’s first utility-scale solar energy project – slated for the desert south of Boise – is facing lawsuits from partners who say they haven’t been paid.

Francisco said Micron’s LED project – and the federal government’s $5 million investment – wasn’t a waste.

Micron was able to add some jobs as the unemployment rate rose sharply during the recession, he said, adding that Micron also put millions of dollars of its own money into the LED venture.