(Thomas Mitchell/4th St8) – I call it money laundering.
This week the Obama administration’s Interior Department identified thousands of acres of public land suitable for solar energy projects, including five sites in Nevada, which already has several solar energy projects on public land.
The Silver State North Project in the Ivanpah Valley near the California border was the first utility-scale photovoltaic farm built on public land anywhere in the United States. That project is owned by First Solar Inc.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently toured the plant and touted its success.
By pure coincidence, earlier this week, the CEO of First Solar, Robert J. Gillette of Arizona, resigned. According to Bloomberg.com, he received $29.9 million in pay for 15 months on the job and is eligible for a severance package worth another $8.9 million. He got a $5 million signing bonus when he was lured away from Honeywell International. Since then First Solar’s stock has dropped about 60 percent.
The stock this morning is trading at about $54, a bit down from the 52-week high of $175.
Bloomberg reports First Solar received $3.07 billion in loan guarantees from the U.S. government to support its projects.
The ratepayers of NV Energy will be paying more than 13 cents per Kwh for power from First Solar’s Ivanpan facility, even though the company could purchase power from a natural gas-fired plant for about 4 cents a Kwh or less, since the price of natural gas keeps going down.
But Gillette did not keep all of those millions. He gave some of it away.
He gave $5,000 to First Solar’s PAC, which in turn gave $2,000 to Dianne Feinstein’s campaign.
Earlier he gave a few thousands to Honeywell’s PAC, which gave $5,000 to Harry Reid’s campaign in 2009 alone and nearly $10,000 in prior years. That PAC gave more than $20,000 to Harry’s Searchlight Leadership Fund. It also gave thousands to the Senate Majority Fund, while Harry was the majority leader, as well as a few thousands to the campaigns of Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi.
Gillette was replaced by company Chairman Michael Ahearn, who, along with his wife, has given $123,000 to various Democratic candidates in recent years. He also gave a few thousand to the Solar Energy Industry Association PAC, which gave generously to, you guessed it, Harry Reid. There were also a few donations for the Senate campaign of one Ken Salazar.
You pay your taxes. You pay your power bill. They spread it around amongst themselves. Isn’t that cozy?
What Harry and Barry failed to mention is that the array that will save $1 million a year cost $100 million to build and has a life expectancy of 20 to 30 years.