Folded solar panel company Solyndra LLC hired a lobbying group just weeks before going into bankruptcy, according to documents filed on Thursday.
Public disclosure reports, a legal requirement for lobbying in the United States, indicate that the Glover Park Group LLC did around $20,000 of lobbying for the solar panel maker, signing on just one month before the company filed for bankruptcy on September 6.
Despite not receiving payment for their services, the Washington lobbying firm is not seeking compensation, said managing director Joel Johnson.
Solyndra has been under investigation by the FBI since February for allegedly misrepresenting its financial health in order to obtain a $535 million loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy (DOE) in 2009.
Members from both sides of the US House of Representatives have also accused Solyndra chief executive Brian Harrison of giving a falsely positive outlook on the company’s finances when they met last July.
Glover Park also helped present this image to the public, organizing a news conference in Washington where Harrison said the company was “growing, doubling in size year-over-year, and on track”. Harrison was brought before the House of Representatives on September 23, where he declined to answer questions under the Fifth Amendment.
The company has rejected all claims of misrepresentation.
$1.3 Million in Lobbying
Before hiring Glover Park in July, Solyndra had called upon the services of five other lobbyists, spending over $1.3 million since 2009 on matters relating to the government loan and solar power promotion policies.
In the first half of 2011, disclosure reports show the California-based company spent around $480,000 on lobbying US Congress. A month before filing for bankruptcy, Solyndra made a last-ditch attempt to redefine the terms of its loan from the Energy Department.
The DOE had already agreed to restructure the loan once in February, guaranteeing $75 million in public funds if Solyndra went into liquidation. However this time around the request was rejected, and on August 31, the company was forced to shut down operations.
Solyndra was one of the highest-profile companies to benefit from the State of California’s tax break program, which aims to promote renewable energy solutions. The state granted the company $25 million in deductions before it filed for bankruptcy.
Coming under increasing pressure to review the incentives program, state treasurer Bill Lockyer told state lawmakers the program was a “wise and needed one”. He admitted there were risks involved but maintained that the potential for jobs and investment opportunities, along with environmental benefits, far outweighed the downside.
Key Statistics – Solar Energy in the US Q2 2011 (source: Solar Energy Industries Association)
- Solar energy production was up 69% year-on-year in Q2 of 2011 and also up 17% on Q1 this year.
- In the first half of 2011, 582 MW of PV systems were installed throughout the US, topping the total amount installed in 2009.
- In August 2011, the US solar industry counted over 100,000 employees, more than twice the estimated workforce in 2009.
- In the second half of 2011, over 1,100 MW of additional solar capacity, sufficient to power more than 200,000 homes, is scheduled to become operational.
- Total solar production capacity in the US is currently at 3,183 MW, which is enough to provide electricity to 630,000 American homes.