47 Comments

Summary:

After getting a $535 million federal loan guarantee for building a factory, solar thin-film startup Solyndra is going out of business. Solyndra has also raised close to a billion dollars in equity and loans and said it will file Chapter 11.

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Solar company Solyndra is closing down and filing for bankruptcy.

That news, reported by NBC  and which we’ve just confirmed with the solar company, is chilling because so many hopes have been pinned on Solyndra’s success story for job creation, solar manufacturing and a celebration of American innovation.

The Fremont, Calif., company, which uses a novel process to make solar panels that are consisted of rows of solar cell-lined tubes, is laying off its 1,100 full-time and temporary employees immediately, the company said. The company, which has suspended production, plans to file for Chapter 11 and figure out what to do with its intellectual property and assets. Options include selling its business and licensing is technology.

“Solyndra LLC, the American manufacturer of innovative cylindrical solar systems for commercial rooftops today announced that global economic and solar industry market conditions have forced the Company to suspend its manufacturing operations,” the company said in a statement.

More from the company press release:

Despite strong growth in the first half of 2011 and traction in North America with a number of orders for very large commercial rooftops, Solyndra could not achieve full-scale operations rapidly enough to compete in the near term with the resources of larger foreign manufacturers. This competitive challenge was exacerbated by a global oversupply of solar panels and a severe compression of prices that in part resulted from uncertainty in governmental incentive programs in Europe and the decline in credit markets that finance solar systems.

“We are incredibly proud of our employees, and we would like to thank our investors, channel partners, customers and suppliers, for the years of support that allowed us to bring our innovative technology to market.  Distributed rooftop solar power makes sense, and our customers clearly recognize the advantages of Solyndra systems,” said Solyndra’s president and CEO, Brian Harrison.  “Regulatory and policy uncertainties in recent months created significant near-term excess supply and price erosion.  Raising incremental capital in this environment was not possible.  This was an unexpected outcome and is most unfortunate.”

Solyndra has garnered the spotlight not only for its unusual technology but also for receiving a hefty federal loan guarantee of $535 million to build a factory. Solyndra broke ground on the factory project just before Labor Day in 2009 and completed the factory last year. Solyndra has also raised close to a billion dollars in equity and loans.

We knew this year would be a make-or-break year for Solyndra, given the company’s plan to ramp up production this year and perhaps putting behind the hubbub about its decision to forego an IPO in favor of raising private funding. The company had to lay off employees and close an older factory last year because it was having trouble competing with manufacturers, particularly those from China, that had built much larger factories and cut their costs significantly.

Here’s our previous coverage of Solyndra’s ups and downs:

  1. Nice job Obama another failure for you. Can I get my tax money back please.

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    1. Thank Bush this was his baby

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      1. Just saying Bush did this doesn’t make it so. Obama has been the head coach for 3 years now..how about accepting responsibility!

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      2. Bush had nothing to do with this. Get a College Degree then reply. Otherwise don’t bother posting.

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    2. Tell you what, get the $2+ Trillion that wasted on Iraq/Afghan wars and I will make sure the $535M loan is repaid.

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      1. if it wasn’t for us going over seas, you might be making body armor and panic rooms here in the US… If Obama would help keep business growth here in the US rather then allowing overseas markets into our nonsense… this company would be fine…

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    3. most of the money did go back to american taxpayers via the construction(100% US), suppliers(>85% US), and 90% of the employees were in the US.

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  2. What happened to all of the “green jobs” that were supposed to be popping up out of the woodwork because of the billions of hope/change dollars that were handed out?

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    1. If you don’t have solar on your house, then there is your answer. We cannot expect companies to pay good wages to American workers while we support goods made overseas. We must accept our portion of the responsibility and create a market for green tech. Of course if you WANT President Obama to fail, go ahead and risk the lives of your fellow citizens to do it.

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  3. interested citizen Wednesday, August 31, 2011

    Do we know how much of that $535 billion the gov’t is potentially on the hook for?

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    1. Peter Le Lievre Wednesday, August 31, 2011

      Solyndra have actually drawn $432 Million of the Loan. So this is how much has been lost. You can see at http://www.treasury.gov/ffb in the press release section. Just add the monthly drawdowns.

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      1. Thanks for the information, Peter.

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  4. A roof covered by a closely packed array of long glass tubes was never going to beat thin flat panels.

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    1. Actually it did because flat panels weren’t efficient enough, it could only get sun from a certain angle and since the Solyndra panel was a circular tube it obtained sun from all angles

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      1. A flat panel can also collect sunlight from a range of angles. Solyndra’s design is fundamentally flawed in a manner that is so obvious that the company should never have been funded-half active surface faces away from the sun. Solyndra’s schematic showing that light reflected by the white roof is converged to the back side of the tube is nonsense. A white roof will reflect diffusly meaning that reflected light is just as likely to pass out between gaps between the tubes and never be collected. VC’s think that whatever they choose to fund they can make the winner notwithstanding physics or sound engineering.

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  5. Thank you solyndra for coming to the bay area for nothing. Jobs ? Wat jobs you guys r a crock and a fraud now u make Obama look bad. Pissed off employee? Yes I am

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  6. “are consisted of”? You have got to be kidding me.

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  7. I watched them just finish there new $500 million building, they worked 7 days a week for over a year. No need to worry about overtime when the Fed government is funding everything. This is your tax dollars at work, 1/2 billion sitting in an empty building and 1100 more on the unemployment rolls. Great Job Mr. President!!

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  8. SVE, read into Solyndra’s attributes and niche; then you’ll understand the competitive advantage they were targeting.

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    1. Actually I know quite a bit about there supposed advantages. They had a marginal advantage of angle insensitivity (flat panels have cosine response). They had a marginal improvement of raw efficiency. But they were horrible on manufacturing tubes versus coating a thin flat substrate. Any inefficiencies experiences by flat panel people could be made up by simply buying more panels. On a dollar/watt basis, the flat panel people were always going to win because of easier mfg.

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    2. Maury Markowitz Friday, September 16, 2011

      I did, extensively. I didn’t see the advantage. Consider just one tiny little issue and you’ll start to see the problem:

      Panels are almost all the same size now, 1 by 1.6 meters. So let’s say a panel goes and I need to get a replacement. I can buy practically any panel out there, and it should fit OK.

      So what happens when a Solyndra goes? I can only replace it with another Solyndra. Do I take the “module” apart and replace the dead tube? Do I replace the whole module? What if the design has changed?

      There’s a lot more to installing solar than just “best panel”, and Solyndra just didn’t hit any of the other buttons.

      My thoughts, blog roll: http://matter2energy.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/solyndra-the-missing-story/

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  9. SVE, read into Solyndra’s market niche, then you’ll understand their competitive advantage over conventional flat panels in certain circumstances. Using absolute statements stints innovation and can be difficult to uphold.

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    1. Let’s say they were twice as good (they weren’t). You can eliminate that disadvantage by buying twice as many flat panels, and it would still be cheaper. Cooked and done.

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  10. Republican or Democrat a presidential visit spelled disaster for this company…funny the top man went on to “explore and better opportunities ” after the president came to visit… got what he came for, as all CEO’s do…they look out for themselves only !

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  11. Price is key in the current market, and solar panels are a commoddity – expect many more bankruptcies in 2012

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  12. Looks like the 1st casualty of the debt ceiling crisis. This could have had a better outcome.

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  13. China to blame?
    I guess china’s policy of putting it’s people to work and having foreign countries pay for that cheap labor is at work again.
    They artificially lower the costs, way below what is competitively achievable. Solyndra could not compete with this approach who could.

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    1. Solyndra’s production costs were high to start with, and it tried to bring it down but couldn’t do it fast enough. But other American companies and European companies are very much in the game, including First Solar. That aside, people will debate whether building factories in the U.S. is a good move to begin with when you can do it cheaply elsewhere. First Solar and SunPower have big manufacturing operations in Asia (Malaysia and the Philippines).

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  14. It’s a shame…. All of those jobs lost…

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  15. i want to know how much the CEO took in why he was running the company into the ground

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  16. well, now some smart VC will come in and buy Solyndra for cheap… gets its patents and then go to China to manufacture the panels and sells them back to the US and cheaper. We started this type of business decades ago. The dream that once again the US can manufacture anything here has long been dreamed. We don’t hold much of an advantage anymore. It is a hard lesson but we also started it. No one to blame but ourselves… that’s what short-term profit greed produces. Look at Germany, high labor cost, social markets, tons of unions… yet they kept their know-how or much of it in-house/country. Look at their unemployment rate! lower than before the recession! just think about it.

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  17. yes, this was another bet that didn’t payoff. It is a bit unusual for government to bet on technology, but betting on technology and innovation is what made this country great.

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  18. Maybe this was the CEO’s plan the whole time. get a plan or idea from somewhere,Build a company that is growing FAST, Getting a lot of attention from EVERYONE the President Of the United States , DOE. Get people to invest lots of money and make it large and flashy. Then start racking the money in for yourself and then call it quits so you are off the hook for all that cash and re group to sell the company and make more money meanwhile having so many people with no jobs and all TAX payers money down the drain. Sounds like a plan to get rich……… WHAT you guys think??

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  19. This was an interesting 30 minutes of research. Following up on the reference in the Solyndra press release to ”uncertainty in governmental incentive programs in Europe” I did a bit of reasearch on European subsidies for solar. What it boils down to is that European governments are significantly reducing their subsidies to solar power. The Solyndra web site shows that, while all their manufacturing was US-based, a large part of their sales and installations were in Europe. Once the European subsidies and related sales dried up that was it for Solyndra. So Solyndra was only ever viable on the basis of US loan guarantees and indirect subsidies from Europe. I live in Europe, by the way, and was interested during my research to learn that I have been paying for my neighbor’s solar installations by way of an increased home electric bill. A failed and expensive policy all around.

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  20. Felix Hoenikker Thursday, September 1, 2011

    Solyndra was an easy pass in 2008 but not for a bunch of VCs without any energy know-how proselytizing technology they didn’t understand…they were drinking the cool-aide and convinced the DOE to join the party. Symptomatic of a need for actual energy investing talent…. so it goes.
    http://opensourcecleantech.blogspot.com/

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  21. Ryan Stanton-Wyman Thursday, September 1, 2011

    Very unfortunate; another domino falls, that’s three in three weeks, beginning with Evergreen Solar:
    http://bit.ly/pxYNUL

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  22. It appears Solyndra’s business plan was not backed by sound engineering and practicality. The product was expensive to manufacture with marginal output increases. To much on the money supply side again.

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  23. Earlier this year, I was looking to distribute Solyndra’s product. They could never be reached by phone nor email. They just kept on sending the same email every time I tried to initiate communication with them. With that type of marketing they deserve what they got, it’s to bad for the employees and their families. We know the tax payers will be footing this bill. Also, we need to put a enviromental fee on every product that is produced over seas, which does not meet the US enviromental standards, which is brought into this country if we are that concerned with the world enviroment. If given a fair playing field US employees can compete.

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  24. another 1/2 billion tax payer dollars down the drain. There seems to be no end to government waste. I wonder how much of that 1/2 billion wound up in executive pockets. 2/3?

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  25. There is Hope For Solyndra

    Yes, Solyndra had bad management! That’s fact! President and his DOE Administration provided over a half billion dollars in funding because of the kind of crony capitalism that Sarah Palin spoke about. My company Allen Hydro Energy Corporation http://www.ahecEnergy.com could not get a small renewable energy stimulus grant, even with the ability to create over 10,000 Green Jobs. These are facts. But So what!

    This a great opportunity to make it right!
    Innovators, Inventors and entrepreneurs like myself, would welcome the opportunity to help this nation out of an economic depression, where African American Unemployment officially is 16%, but unofficially between 30% and 50%. If President Obama and his Administration will listen, I can show them how to turn Solyndra around, rehire all the employee and make a Solar Power Backup System that the US and the World will demand before and after weather disasters.

    Imagine the next time a major disaster like Hurricane Irene hits the US or an earthquake his another country like Haiti or Japan, Solyndra Solar Power Systems would provide backup solar power to entire communities, until regular electricity can be restored. Solyndra’s unused facility, equipment and staff exist, we have the innovation and talent people ready to make this happen. All that is need is leadership by President, not another Address to Congress. Action!!!!! The President needs the courage to listen to innovators trying to help this country, who can’t afford the pay-to-play to be heard.

    Next to AHEC’s Innovation, Solynda presents the best opportunity to create over 10,000 Green Jobs by operating 3 shifts, 7 days per week and requiring all it’s suppliers to do the same and operate off a 10% profit margin. The first orders should come from cities for their critical buildings like police, fire, city hall, state capital, schools, hospitals, restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores. The losses that occur during a disaster are far greater than the cost of Solyndra’s New System that could be purchased, rented or leased.

    I remain hopeful, but if this President Obama and Steven Chu stays true to form, an African American Innovator and Entrepreneur like myself will continue to be ignored, until it’s time for his re-eleection.

    Charles E. Campbell, Founder & CEO
    Allen Hydro Energy Corporation (AHEC)
    http://www.ahecEnergy.com
    ahecgreen@live.com

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    1. ruszski@att.net Monday, September 12, 2011

      Good Luck Charles you sound like a smart guy, I am learning alot today from many of these posts. I will be keeping an eye out for your companies success.

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  26. 353 million in loans from the American Taxpayer down the drain. Obama supporter major Solyndra stockholder to benefit from the American taxpayer compliments of OBAMA cronyism.
    Another Obama contributor with the banking firm to get 10million more on this deal for Solyndra. Can you say the corrupt Buck stops here? Let’s put that sign on Obama’s desk

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  27. Brian Harrison! He’s the one brought down the Intel FMG, Numonyx, and now Solydra. All of these companies departments were either stayed one year on life-support or bankrupt. Please track CEOs performance/criminal records before hiring, would you?

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  28. I’m not a fan of this administration but I do agree with these comments in this particular situation: “(Reuters) – Senior Democrats urged the Obama administration and Congress to take action against Chinese trade policies they said are unfairly hurting America’s environmental technology sector and making it harder to create jobs.

    “China is systematically deploying an arsenal of trade distorting policies to corner the global market in green technology products, whether it be electric cars, wind turbines or solar products,” Representative Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said in a statement.

    “Our efforts to put Americans back to work are made all the more difficult by China’s policies, and it is time we take action to counter them — either through aggressive use of our domestic trade laws or through WTO cases,” Levin said as lawmakers returned from a month-long break.

    Last week, Solyndra LLC filed for bankruptcy, becoming the third U.S. solar firm to succumb to pressure from lower-priced Chinese rivals in recent weeks.”
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/06/us-usa-china-trade-idUSTRE78573H20110906

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  29. F&^K do i have to do everything…kill my landlord

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  30. Maury Markowitz Friday, September 16, 2011

    What’s being lost in all this discussion is any consideration of *why* the company folded.

    Frankly, I didn’t think the product was that good, and would be hesitant to recommend it to my customers. I’m sure other installers came to the same conclusions for the same reasons.

    Solyndra’s blaming the Chinese, but that’s just finger-pointing.

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