Energy Department officials told ABC News they believe the Republican investigators are looking at an incomplete picture, saying that Kim -- the author of the email -- ultimately signed off on the technical innovations in the two solar projects, as did senior loan officers who conducted their own thorough review. They also suggested the House investigators have misread the rules -- that the innovations in the solar project meet the requirements.
The fact that some of the innovative technology has been used in projects in Europe, for instance, does not mean the project is not innovative under the rules the department set out to govern the loan program. Technology that has not been used commercially in the United States will qualify as innovative, the rules say. House Republicans counter that the rules explicitly call for technology that is "new or significantly improved."
"For nearly a year, Congressional critics of the Department's loan programs have demonstrated a consistent pattern of cherry-picking individual emails from the hundreds of thousands of pages of documents the Department has provided to Congress with the sole purpose of inventing false and misleading controversy," LaVera said.
"While the law that created the [green energy] loan program does not include any requirement to limit our support to innovative projects, the Department chose to apply a tougher standard that would ensure we were investing in the kind of projects that will help the United States compete for the clean energy jobs of the future," he said. "After a careful review on the merits, the senior career official responsible for the loan program's technical reviews made clear these projects met that standard."
For its part, First Solar officials says it considers the two projects funded with government loans to be revolutionary in the solar industry.
Both are "of unprecedented size and scale that will provide clean power for 175,000 average homes while displacing 360,000 metric tons of CO2 annually -- equivalent to taking 70,000 cars off the road," said Ted Meyer, the company's vice president of global corporate communications.
Both projects are incorporating new technologies to "help to ensure the reliability and stability of transmission systems, which is imperative for the long-term integration of renewable energy into the grid. It is expected that these technologies will eventually become standard in the solar power industry," he said. In addition, he added that the single-axis trackers at the Antelope Valley project "will enable the modules to rotate to capture more sunlight, typically resulting in 15-25 percent more annual energy yield, depending on location."
First Solar officials say they are forecasting more than $3 billion in revenue this year, but they acknowledge the company has suffered along with the rest of the solar industry as European subsidies have dried up and China has flooded the market. The company's stock has been sliding, and has become a favorite for so-called "short sellers" -- investors who are betting on the company to fail.