Solyndra Another One Of Obamas Failures
Silicon Valley solar panel maker Solyndra shut its doors and laid off 1,100 workers Wednesday after raising more than $1 billion from investors and securing a half billion dollar federal loan guarantee to build a state-of-the-art robotic factory that opened less than a year ago. Solyndra intends to file for bankruptcy received $535 million in backing from the federal government and has a cozy history with Democrats and the Obama administration, campaign finance records show. Shareholders and executives of Solyndra, a green energy company producing solar panels, fundraised for and donated to the Obama administration to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Obama cited the company as a model of success for his highly touted green-energy industry initiative. In fact, the Obama administration fast-tracked the solar startup’s $535 million loan application to the Department of Energy — a move later criticized by the Government Accountability Office. During a visit to the Solyndra facility in 2010, Obama said the factory is “a testament to American ingenuity and dynamism and the fact that we continue to have the best universities in the world, the best technology in the world, and most importantly the best workers in the world.” According to a Washington Post report, Solyndra communications director David Miller called the White House to ask that a factory tour be added to Obama’s itinerary during a trip to California. Solyndra and the administration originally projected the loan would help Solyndra create 4,000 jobs.
Tulsa billionaire George Kaiser, a key Obama backer who raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for the president’s election campaign, is one of Solyndra’s primary investors. Kaiser himself donated $53,500 to Obama’s 2008 election campaign, split between the DSCC and Obama For America. Kaiser also made several visits to the White House and appeared at some White House events next to Obama officials. Campaign finance records show Kaiser and Solyndra executives and board members donated $87,050 total to Obama’s election campaign. And now, just two years after securing a half-billion-dollar federal loan, Solyndra has said that it will declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Solyndra also spent $550,000 lobbying Congress in 2010. Between 2008 and 2011, the company spent more than $1 million lobbying for bills including the “American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009″ and the “Solar Manufacturing Jobs Creation Act.” In 2009, the company posted $100 million dollars in revenue. Its production and sales growth could lead to a market cap between $1.76 – 2 billion dollars. 2010 revenues were approximately $140 million.
Solyndra designs, manufactures and sells solar photovoltaic (PV) systems composed of panels and mounting hardware for large, low-slope commercial rooftops. The panels perform optimally when mounted horizontally and packed closely together, thereby, the company claims, covering significantly more of the typically available roof area and producing more electricity per rooftop on an annual basis than a conventional panel installation. The solar panels developed by the company are unlike any other product ever tried in the industry. The panels are made of racks of cylindrical tubes (also called tubular solar panels), as opposed to traditional flat panels. Solyndra rolls its copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGS) thin films into a cylindrical shape and places 40 of them in each 1-meter-by-2-meter panel. The cylindrical solar panels (think of fluorescent tube lights—except in reverse) can absorb energy from every direction (direct, indirect and reflected light).
On 20 March 2009 Solyndra estimated that:
- The construction of this complex will employ approximately 3,000 people.
- The operation of the facility will create over 1,000 jobs in the United States.
- The installation of these panels will create hundreds of additional jobs in the United States.
* The commercialization of this technology is expected to then be duplicated in multiple other manufacturing facilities
On 3 November 2010 Solyndra said it would lay off around 40 employees and not renew contracts for about 150 temporary workers as a result of the consolidation.
On 31 August 2011 Solyndra announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, laying off 1100 employees, and shutting down all operations and manufacturing.
Solyndra’s crash will almost certainly intensify a debate in Washington over whether the federal government did its due diligence in vetting Solyndra for a $535 million loan guarantee – or whether it should even be in the business of subsidizing new renewable energy technologies. Solyndra had become something of a poster child for the promise of the new clean green economy and the company’s Fremont, Calif., factories became a favored backdrop for visiting dignitaries, from former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to President Obama. In a statement, Solyndra wrote “global economic and solar industry market conditions” forced it to close its Fremont, Calif., factory and lay off 1,100 employees. “Regulatory and policy uncertainties in recent months created significant near-term excess supply and price erosion,” Solyndra president and CEO Brian Harrison said. “Raising incremental capital in this environment was not possible. This was an unexpected outcome and is most unfortunate.”
“Less than a year ago, we were standing on what was an empty lot. But through the Recovery Act, this company received a loan to expand its operations,” Obama proclaimed then. “This new factory is the result of those loans. Campaign finance records show Solyndra shareholders and executives did their fair share of greasing palms. Ben Bierman, executive vice president of operations and engineering for Solyndra, donated $5,500 to Obama’s election campaign. Karen Alter, senior vice president of marketing, donated $23,000 in 2008. According to information collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, Solyndra board members have donated at least $27,400 to Democratic campaigns and affiliates. Since 1998, Solyndra board member James F. Gibbons has contributed $13,500 on his own. Board member Winston Fu has contributed $4,550 since 2008. Since 1991, board member Thomas Baruch has contributed $7,150. And board member Steven R. Mitchell donated $2,300 to Obama in 2007.
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