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FREMONT (CBS 5) — After filing for bankruptcy last year, Fremont solar company Solyndra still owes American taxpayers half a billion dollars. But CBS 5 caught them destroying millions of dollars worth of parts.
At Solyndra’s sprawling complex in Fremont, workers in white jumpsuits were unwrapping brand new glass tubes used in solar panels last week. They are the latest, most cutting-edge solar technology, and they are being thrown into dumpsters.
Forklifts brought one pallet after another piled high with the carefully packaged glass. Slowly but surely it all ended up shattered.
And it’s not a few loads. Hundreds of thousands of tubes on shrink-wrapped pallets will meet a similar demise.
Solyndra paid at least $2 million for the specialized glass. A CBS 5 crew found one piece lying in the parking lot. Solyndra still owes the German company that made the tubes close to another $8 million.
So why is a bankrupt company that owes a fortune to creditors, including American taxpayers, throwing away millions of dollars worth of assets?
Solyndra is not commenting. But court documents reveal the company received permission from the bankruptcy trustee to abandon the high grade glass, the court agreeing that it was of “inconsequential value” because the cost of storing them exceeds their value.
An employee for Heritage Global Partners, the company in charge of selling Solyndra’s assets, told CBS 5 they conducted an exhaustive search for buyers but no one wanted them.
But how exhaustive was that search? The tubes were never included on the list of Solyndra assets put up for sale at two auctions last year.
If they were, David Lucky told CBS 5 he would have bought them. “We certainly would have bid on them, yes,” Lucky said.
Lucky owns several large warehouses near Las Vegas. He buys and then resells manufacturing equipment and components all the time.
“Our company has bought a lot of stuff over the years. Truck loads and warehouses full of inventory that companies were just ready to send to the dump, because they don’t want to take the time to find markets for it,” he said.
When Solyndra shut down last year, he bought hundreds of fully assembled solar panels at the auctions and is reselling them on eBay. “They’re going for a third their original price. They are a great deal,” Lucky said.
He said if given a chance he would have snapped up the tubes too. “One day some manufacturing company would eventually need those,” Lucky said.
Solar scientist Greg Smestad agreed they have value. “As a scientist I said ‘Wow, this needs to be studied,’” he said. Smestad has consulted for the Department of Energy.
He recently bought a Solyndra solar panel to study its technology, which is completely different from traditional panels. “It can accept both the direct sun and also track motion, because it’s a cylinder,” he explained. “The technology is very promising.”
Smestad wrote a letter to the auctioneers, asking if they could donate to Santa Clara University any of the leftover tubes after the Solyndra auctions are completed. “Let one student use this as an inspiration for their career and that will be worth something,” he said. But the auctioneers wrote back saying they couldn’t do that.
“That really makes me sad,” said Smestad. “Those tubes represent intellectual investment. These could have had a better value to do public good. I think they owed the U.S. taxpayer that.”
Solyndra was hoping to have sold the entire company by Thursday, but they called off the sale because nobody bid for it.
CBS 5 asked more than once for Solyndra, the auction company and the bankruptcy trustee to talk on camera. But they all refused.
CBS 5 also called the German company that made the glass tubes to see if they would have wanted the tubes back. After all, they are still owed almost $8 million dollars. A spokesman said he had no idea they were being destroyed.
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