Report: Seagate to move into Solyndra’s former factory

Solyndra's Factory in Fremont, Calif

UPDATED: Nearly a year after Solyndra filed for bankruptcy and forced the federal government to reconsider its cleantech investment criteria, the gleaming building that was once Solyndra’s home will apparently have a new corporate sign. Seagate Technology, which makes data storage drives for computers and other electronic equipment, has reportedly agreed to be the building’s new owner.

The publicly traded storage drive maker hasn’t disclosed that it has agreed to buy the building, however. Seagate’s U.S. base is in Cupertino, across the bay from Solyndra’s former base in Fremont, though it uses its space in Cupertino for administration and product development rather than manufacturing. The company’s factories are in China, Malaysia, Northern Ireland, Singapore, Thailand and Minnesota, according to its annual report.

UPDATE: Seagate just issued a statement about the Solyndra building: 

“Seagate has entered into an agreement to purchase the building subject to a diligence review over the next 45 days whereby we can elect to either proceed with or cancel the purchase. If and when the purchase is complete, we will provide our plans for use of the building.”

Solyndra secured a federal loan guarantee of $535 million to construct the building in 2010. The building housed its offices and a factory that it had intended on expanding one day. The space was meant to enable Solyndra to scale up the production of its novel solar panel, which consisted of a series of solar cell-containing tubes. The design was so unusual that Solyndra’s booth at trade shows would attract way more foot traffic than others.

But at the end, the company wasn’t able to reduce its manufacturing costs quick enough to compete with much-larger rivals that were able to cut their production costs more swiftly.

The federal government took a big gamble on Solyndra in a bid to boost the domestic solar manufacturing industry and support clean power generation. For critics, Solyndra’s failure came to symbolize the government’s inability to make a sound investment. For others, however, Solyndra’s fall reflected a rather typical outcome of so many tech startups that aimed high but never soared. Solyndra had raised over $1 billion in private dollars as well.

Solyndra’s building is next to a busy freeway, and for the past year it has served as a sad reminder of a company that failed spectacularly and so publicly. It will be good to see the space being put to productive use.

Seagate was founded in 1979 and saw a nice bump in sales the fiscal year that ended in June this year. The company reported $14.9 billion in revenue during that fiscal year, up from nearly $11 billion in the previous year. Its profit jumped from $511 million to $2.9 billion during the same period.

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