First Solar investing in political favor

Government support of solar companies in the U.S. have been under scrutiny since the collapse of cylindrical module manufacturer Solyndra, and government records show that First Solar has been contributing to political campaigns and in lobbying efforts in Washington.

Secretary of state records show that in California, the company contributed USD150,000 to campaigns last year, more than three times as much contributed by oil-giant BP’s North American unit.

In contrast to the loan guarantees granted to Solyndra, which many accept will not be repaid, First Solar looks to have made good with some of the government support it has received. The company has received USD3 billion in loan guarantees for three photovoltaic power plant projects, all of which have been sold.

In early December, First Solar announced that it had sold its 550-MW Topaz solar project for USD2 billion.

First Solar’s efforts in Washington, where Bloomberg reports it opened an office last year, coincide with the company getting access with government officials. The company’s Director of Public Affairs, Maja Wessels, met with government officials and former CEO Rob Gillete attended a White House dinner, which German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended.