NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Firm Sells Solar Panels, Taxpayers Pay

March 20, 2012

A heavily subsidized solar company received a U.S. taxpayer loan guarantee to sell solar panels to itself, says the Washington Examiner.

First Solar is the company and the subsidy came from the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im).

Here's the road of subsidies these solar panels followed from Perrysburg, Ohio, to St. Clair, Ontario.

  • First Solar is an Arizona-based manufacturer of solar panels.
  • In 2010, the Obama administration awarded the company $16.3 million to expand its factory in Ohio.
  • In 2010, then-Ohio governor Ted Strickland announced more than a million dollars in job training grants to First Solar.
  • The Ohio Department of Development also lent First Solar $5 million, and the state's Air Quality Development Authority gave the company an additional $10 million loan.

After First Solar pocketed this $17.3 million in government grants and $15 million in government loans, Ex-Im entered the scene.

  • In September 2011, Ex-Im approved $455.7 million in loan guarantees to subsidize the sale of solar panels to two wind farms in Canada.
  • That means if the wind farm ever defaults, the taxpayers pick up the tab, ensuring First Solar gets paid.

But the buyer, in this case, was First Solar.  A small corporation called St. Clair Solar owned the wind farm and was the Canadian company buying First Solar's panels.  But St. Clair Solar was a wholly owned subsidiary of First Solar.  So, basically, First Solar was shipping its own solar panels from Ohio to a solar farm it owned in Canada, and the U.S. taxpayers were subsidizing this "export."

This subsidy undermines the arguments for Ex-Im's existence.  Ex-Im, whose authorization expires May 31, is supposed to be a job creator, helping U.S. manufacturers beat foreign manufacturers by having U.S. taxpayers backstop the financing.

Source: Timothy P. Carney, "Firm Sells Solar Panels -- to Itself, Taxpayers Pay," Washington Examiner,

March 19, 2012.

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