Back in May I raised the question of whether or not Solyndra’s $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy — the DOE’s first and flagship loan guarantee — was a mistake. Despite the fact that Solyndra had raised around a billion dollars of its own private equity, I pointed to the fact back then that the company has one of the highest manufacturing costs out of its thin film solar peers. The economics just didn’t seem to work.
Since I wrote that article, Solyndra ended up ditching its IPO plans, and its founding CEO stepped down. And now this morning the company announced that it will close its first factory and will lay off dozens of workers. Wow. Things could not have turned much worse for the company that the DOE held up as an example of a stimulus package that could create green jobs and a good candidate for its long delayed loan guarantee program.
To remember better days for Solyndra, just look back to my live coverage of Solyndra’s ground-breaking of its factory in September 2009. The event was attended by DOE Secretary Steven Chu, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, then-CEO Chris Gronet, and featured a live video keynote from Vice President Joseph Biden. The entire crew did the obligatory shovel dirt shot in front of a tractor draped in the American flag (see photos).
Now the company is shelving its plans for its first factory to save money, despite raising funds of $175 million in June by selling convertible promissory notes to existing investors. Solyndra told us that it has completed the construction of the second factory building, but as of a few weeks ago, it hadn’t started production. Company spokesman David Miller told our reporter Ucilia during Solar Power International in mid-October that the company was putting in equipment on the second factory floor....MORE