UPDATED Solar startup Solyndra, which makes tube-shaped thin-film solar panels, already managed to break new ground this year — snagging the first loan guarantee under a long-delayed Department of Energy program. This morning, however, the groundbreaking is literal. Just up the freeway from its headquarters in Fremont, Calif., the company is showing off the site for the factory it’s building with the $535 million loan guarantee, and announcing details for the project along with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
So far, they’ve told us that the DOE has now finalized the loan guarantee (it was a preliminary commitment before). The federal funding will finance construction of the first phase of Solyndra’s factory, which they say will make 3,000 construction jobs eventually employ 1,000 workers. More to come.
UPDATE: Following the announcement that the loan guarantee has just closed, Vice President Biden said, “These are jobs that won’t be exported.” The technology being produced at the factory will reduce carbon emissions equivalent to pulling some 25 million cars off the road, he said. “You guys have figured it out” at Solyndra, says Biden, and in the process created more jobs.
UPDATE: Secretary Chu is also emphasizing jobs — after all, this loan guarantee is being supported by stimulus funds. Chu says that because of this loan guarantee — the first one to go out since the 1980s(!) jobs will be going to Americans. He expects Solyndra’s groundbreaking to “kick off many more” and “start the second industrial revolution.”
UPDATE: Biden referenced unemployment numbers out this morning, calling them much too high but the lowest they’ve been in a year. “Less bad isn’t good,” however. One of the tools for creating jobs — green jobs — is the Recovery Act, he said.
UPDATE: The Governor brought out his one liner: “Hasta la vista to global warming.” He’s calling today a “big celebration” and an example of how to protect jobs and help both the environment and the economy. Referring to the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. factory that Toyota just announced it will be closing in spite of the state’s financial incentive offerings, Schwarzenegger said having the Solyndra plant located in Fremont is a point of pride for him, because “the city is still stinging from losing NUMMI jobs.” The Governor is pushing for state legislators to pass Assembly Bill 1111, which would exempt new manufacturing equipment for cleantech companies from sales tax.
UPDATE: Solyndra CEO and founder Chris Gronet has some kudos to offer Silicon Valley. In 2005, the first cylindrical solar panels that he would later pursue at Solyndra were made in National Renewable Energy labs in Colorado. “But it was in Silicon Valley that we made it a commercial offering.” At this point, he said the plan is to cover “all the available rooftops.” Because of support from the White House, Department of Energy, Congress, the Governor, and others, he says, “we are able to build Fab 2 right here to help the economy and the environment.”
UPDATE: Chu, Schwarzenegger, Gronet and Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman, along with some Solyndra employees, all grabbed shovels and made a show of digging dirt for a photo-op. They all shook hands, and there you have it: Solyndra’s groundbreaking is now officially official.