Taxpayers Take Hit as Solar Industry Implodes

First Solar Logo

In a year where Solyndra became the face of the solar industry’s chronic failures, even the holiday season could not prevent one last flurry of layoffs in 2011.

The Mountain Enterprise (based in Frazier Park, Calif.) reported over the weekend that First Solar, Inc. – which the media sometimes identifies as the largest solar company in the world – laid off half its employees on Friday at its Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One project. The facility has been the subject of controversy in the local community over the effects it will have on land use, wildlife, and water usage.

In a September 30 press release that announced the sale of the 230-megawatt photovoltaic “farm” to Exelon (First Solar will still build, manage and operate the project), up to 400 construction jobs and as many as 15 operations positions were supposed to result. The Department of Energy, which provided a $646 …

Taxpayer-Funded Green Job Losses Easy as A123

A123 logoIt’s another day, and another round of layoffs by a recipient of millions of dollars under the Obama Administration’s renewable energy initiatives, administered by the mismanaged Department of Energy.

This time the Recovery Act largesse – taken out of the hide of taxpayers – went to A123 Systems, Inc. The Massachusetts-based energy storage company was given $249.1 million to help launch two battery-manufacturing plants in Michigan. A123 also received grants and tax credits from the state that could total more than $135 million. In a separate federal grant as a subcontractor for another grantee, A123 received nearly $30 million for a wind energy storage project.

In the Wolverine State, the company will lay off 125 employees at the two plants in Livonia and Romulus. Officials said diminished production by a top customer – Irvine, Calif.-based Fisker Automotive – led to the cutbacks. A123 had expected to deliver batteries for 7,000 …

Will FCC’s Political Favor for LightSquared Result in GPS Interference?

Phil FalconeUnder extremely unusual circumstances, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently granted a company called LightSquared the right to use wireless spectrum to build out a national 4G wireless network. LightSquared will get the spectrum for a song, while its competitors have to spend billions.

Although the technical implications of the FCC action are complicated, how it came about is not. LightSquared is owned by the Harbinger Capital hedge fund, headed by billionaire investor Phil Falcone, in photo. Falcone visited the White House and made large donations to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

When established regulations and procedures are circumvented for political reasons, the result is often unintended consequences. When the Obama FCC appointees did the favor for Falcone, they probably had no idea that they might be creating severe technical problems for other users of wireless spectrum.

Now the Global Positioning System (GPS) industry is up in arms. According to …

Did Harbinger Hedge Fund Buy Influence With White House?; Probe Asked of FCC Spectrum Giveaway

Falcone photoToday we asked the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to investigate actions by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that benefitted Harbinger Capital Partners after its founder Phil Falcone (at right) made large contributions to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

As we describe in the letter to the Committee’s ranking members, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NJ):

The plan centered around first securing FCC approval for Harbinger’s acquisition of SkyTerra, then getting the FCC to “fast-track” approval for Harbinger to take advantage of a little-known spectrum loophole for satellite licenses.

That loophole allowed Falcone’s new company, called LightSquared, to receive spectrum for free, while competitors have to pay billions of dollars. Our letter details this arrangement, and Falcone’s efforts to make it happen. The full text appears below. Click here to download a 7-page pdf.

FULL TEXT OF LETTER:

Dear Chairman Issa and Congressman Towns:

As …