Saturday, September 3, 2011

Not a Good Month For Subsidized Solar Companies

As it turns our, August 2011 has been less than kind to American solar manufacturers.

After taking nearly $60 million in subsidies from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and then bailing for China, Evergreen Solar filed for bankruptcy on August 15.

More recently, a San Francisco-area manufacturer of solar panels sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, shuttering its plant and abruptly laying off 1100 workers. President Obama toured the Fremont, CA facilities of Solyndra Inc back in May 2010 to promote government investments in renewable energy. The company had also received $535 million in loan guarantees from the Department of Energy.

Intel spinoff Spectra Watt filed for bankruptcy protection on August 19 at US Banruptcy court in Poughkeepsie, NY. The company had moved from Hillsboro, OR to Hopewell Jct, NY in 2009. The manufacturer of photovoltaic cells recieved roughly $8 million in subsidies after its startup and another $91 milion from private investors.

Meanwhile, the House Energy Committee has requested that documents and correspondence between the White House, Solyndra and the company's investors be turned over.
"How did this company, without maybe the best economic plan, all of a sudden get to the head of the line?" Representative Fred Upton (R MI-6) told ABC News in an interview this week. "We want to know who made this decision ... and we're not going to stop until we get those answers."

White House officials have said in interviews that they did not intervene in the Solyndra deal or others benefiting companies backed by supporters of the president. Yet the administration, from Obama to the Department of Energy, has very publicly praised the loan guarantee.

In 2009, the Obama administration hailed the Solyndra loan as the first in a series of federal infusions for "green energy" firms that held the potential to clean up the environment and create jobs. But earlier this week, Solyndra abruptly closed its doors, announced it would file for bankruptcy and laid off more than 1,100 workers.

While Energy Department officials steadfastly vouched for Solyndra -- even after an earlier round of layoffs raised eyebrows -- other federal agencies and industry analysts for months questioned the viability of the company.
A May 2011 Center for Public Integrity investigative report raised questions on whether or not the Obama Administration bypassed procedural steps meant to protect taxpayers while approving the $535 million loan guarantee.

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