FREMONT (CBS SF) – A leading Bay Area manufacturer of solar power systems has abruptly shut down operations and laid off its staff while it sought to file for bankruptcy protection.

Solyndra LLC, which makes specialized cylindrical solar systems for commercial rooftops Wednesday announced in a statement that it was suspending operations because of unfavorable global economic and solar industry market conditions.

In the statement, Solyndra said it intends to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy while it evaluates options, which could include selling the firm or its licenses.

Solyndra said as a result of the suspension of operations, some 1,100 full-time and temporary employees were being laid off effective immediately.

Solyndra workers learned as they arrived at the office that the recently-completed Fremont factory where they worked would be closing immediately.

“The only doors that are open are HR doors,” said Ronek Desai, referring to the human resources department where he received an unemployment packet.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

Solyndra and other U.S. solar industry manufacturers have been affected by a worldwide plunge in solar cell prices, based in part on huge subsidies Chinese solar manufacturers receive from their government.

(L-R) Chris Gronet lead U.S. President Barack Obama and Ben Bierman on a tour of the Solyndra (Photo by Paul Chinn-Pool/Getty Images)

The company had been under scrutiny after receiving a $535 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy to expand its manufacturing facility in Fremont, along with a high-profile visit from President Barack Obama in May 2010.

During his visit to Solyndra and the new facility, President Obama showcased the company as a “testament to American ingenuity and dynamism” in line with his vision of developing green and alternative energy industries to compete with China and Europe.

Seven weeks later, Solyndra announced it was delaying expansion plans, shutting an older plant and laying off 150 workers.

In June, Solyndra abandoned a planned initial public stock offering, citing market conditions.

On Wednesday, Solyndra indicated that despite growth and large orders in 2011, it could not ramp up operations fast enough to compete with larger foreign manufacturers. Solyndra said the situation was “exacerbated by a global oversupply of solar panels and a severe compression of prices that in part resulted from uncertainty in governmental incentive programs in Europe and the decline in credit markets that finance solar systems.”

Solyndra’s president and CEO, Brian Harrison said in the statement: “We are incredibly proud of our employees, and we would like to thank our investors, channel partners, customers and suppliers, for the years of support that allowed us to bring our innovative technology to market. Distributed rooftop solar power makes sense, and our customers clearly recognize the advantages of Solyndra systems,” said Harrison.

“Regulatory and policy uncertainties in recent months created significant near-term excess supply and price erosion. Raising incremental capital in this environment was not possible. This was an unexpected outcome and is most unfortunate,” Harrison said.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (94)
  1. Johhny Appleseed says:

    So much for Obama’s historic subsidy for solar. I feel sorry for the workers, who are suffering from another one of Obama’s great lies.

    1. Miles Coatsee says:

      This unfortunate development raises plenty of questions that need to be answered, but there is no basis for saying that Obama lied about anything.

    2. Doug Campbell says:

      im pro obama… but just because people are anti obama doesnt mean they are racist.

    3. Kat says:

      Why it is Obama’s lie? Chinese gov. gives money as a grants to its solar plants, but Republican majority in Congress cuts the funds for American plant, although it was a loan not a grants.

      1. Bob says:

        Move to china then!

      2. Billy says:

        If you read the story you will see that it was a loan guarantee, which is the same as a grant. The US gov will have to pay the full amount. Whenever there is a need for a third party guarantee it means that the lender does not believe that the loan can be repaid. The deal was sour before the US got in.
        It’s like co-signing on an unemployed teenager’s car loan.

  2. david mccrary says:

    This facility was once run by another co that went BK. Not in the same industry. Can’t recall its name now. So what happens to that $535 million guaranty? Will someone exercise the guaranty and make us pay for this too? WHen does it end?

    1. Jake says:

      I know what you mean. It used to be a big red building with a very large “H” that can be seen while driving on 880. And to think that I was seriously considering applying for a job at Solyndra this week. Anyway, best of luck to Obama on wasting $535 million of the taxpayers money. What happens to the money? Do the creditors get it or do the taxpayers get it back? I wonder if Obama had also invested in Tesla motors. I guess they will be bankrupt soon too. This is why people do not like alternative energy. It costs too much to develop and Americans don’t have a clue on how to develop it.

    2. john says:

      The old building was HMT, which was bought by MMC , which then bought out by Seagate..
      535 Million graranty by Gov.. will be paid by you and me and other tax payers.

  3. Obvious says:

    Of course there was no mention that the failure was a result of flawed technology. Its easier to blame everything else. Bozos in the DOE need to be replaced with competent EE’s but that will never happen.

    1. RC says:

      You are dead nuts on, I worked in fuel cells and it was a joke with about 10 different government agencies involved all doing the same kind of work

  4. rrr says:

    Government loans never work. A bunch of losers in the government and in solar industry who will never understand the physics and limitations of the technology and therefore always promise pie in the sky to morons like Obama who use it to show how nice to the planet his administration is.

    I think they had it coming.

    1. Kat says:

      But it works in China. Morons like Republicans majority in Congress prefer as to buy Chinese solar panels.

      1. Kent says:

        Dp you comparison shop and choose the absolute cheapest priced goods you can find at Wal-Mart and elsewhere? Why YES, you do. Then why on earth are you attempting to blame others for what YOU choose to buy? Outsourcing would not exist except for DEMAND, and YOU can blame that on what YOU put in your shopping cart! Go look in the mirror, hypocrite.

      2. AP says:

        “But it works in China. Morons like Republicans majority in Congress prefer as to buy Chinese solar panels.”

        Prefer as or prefer us? Who’s the moron?

      3. patriot23 says:

        Chinese factory’s have gun towers around them. If you had to work for free then the fruits of your labor would would be much cheaper as well. How about the 15 billion (note the B in billion ) that we the people used to purchase GM and then gave all the Obama ass kissers top shelf benefit packages. The problem with you liberals is you can NEVER admit when you are WRONG.

      4. Billy says:

        Who sez it works in China?

        China pays to make all kinds of things that are dead losers. Free land, free factories,free workers, massive overcapacity. Next year they will make something else. it is a shotgun approach to keep workers busy. Lots of what they make they can’t sell at all. They practically give it away on Ebay.

  5. valdobiade says:

    Let’s go back to petroleum pollution and big fat oil monopolistic corporations.

    1. Pedefisk says:

      Go back? Oil companies are recording record GAINS while we suffer at the pumps, and other areas dependant on oil, because of their GREED. It’s still here and I fear, will be for a long time.

      1. denis says:

        Oil is a commodity.OPEC sets the price not the oild companies. Obama restricts drilling so we buy from the middle east and south america. When Obama put the hold on drilling in the gulf the drills were moved to South America.

  6. RC says:

    Another Obama investment and jobs idea.

    1. valdobiade says:

      Obama should invest in wars in Mid Eastern as Bush et Co did.

      1. Maal Member says:

        I do believe he TRIPLED the number of soldiers in Afghanistan, but it wasn’t a “troop surge”, because Obama never could bring himself to admit that it worked when Bush did such a thing. Afghanistan has gone to hell under Obama’s care, and that was the one thing he said would be his priority with regards to such matters. Of course, he’s f’ed up everything else he said would be a “priority”, so at least he’s been consistent. Stop pointing fingers at Bush. Time to find another excuse …

      2. Mark says:

        Obama is investing in wars.
        Libya – illegal war over $1billion spent
        Pakistan – Drone attacks almost daily – $1billion spent
        Yeman, Somalia, — Get the picture. Please stop blaming bush for Obama faults and open your eyes.

  7. John John G says:

    Chinese government simply spent more than US did. That’s all.

    1. Perry says:

      Worked int he oil/chemical industry for 15 years and proud of it, sure they are making money, it’s not greed, it’s called good business managers!! Funny how no one paid attention them when they were losing their a$$!

    2. Christopher A. Pinola says:

      China is the GREATEST COUNTRY IN THIS WORLD, China is investing in it’s PEOPLE and COUNTRY The United States of America is YESTERDAY’S NEWS

      1. Jay Vee says:

        China got better because WE gave them TECH on all sorts of industries to get them moving. They have more capital now because of where they cut back.thats all. Lets see population control, low wages, they put the housing above their factories, no property, no religion and the list is ENDLESS. I would rather have FREEDOM above money. Now how many people have they killed so far ? yeah I thought so.

    3. tony williams says:

      That is correct The Chinese are outspending us in all of the critical technologies, while we argue if the government are supposed to help, Republicans are always telling us that it should be done by private financing, tell me who has that kind of money right now…the stock market is in shambles and companies are hoarding cash. They tried to go IPO and access private money, there were no takers, we are letting politics get in the way of creating jobs, who cares if government or private create jobs, as long as you have a job. A lot of these Republicans have a job in Washington, why don’t we stop paying these guys and let them all go home.

      1. Jay Vee says:

        Wow, really? Or is it just that the Gov. Owns all businesses and there is no profits to gain from its citizens.

      2. EJ says:

        They didn’t get private money because private money is too smart to invest in outdated technology. Too bad the Government isn’t! I guess it’s easy when you are spending someone else’s money!

  8. tonyj says:

    China seizes the Solar Panel market much the way the won the steel market. They are aggressively pushing their way into renewable energies because they know there will be an increasing demand for their renewable products . We, the U.S. is competing for the same energy resources as China, and China is a bigger country with a growing economy, an economy with greater energy needs. Ultimately, as their demand for oil increases, there will be less oil for everyone, and we will increase our demand for solar panels from China. This is a Win Win for China.

    1. Prasad Seshadri says:

      Yes, Problem with Western nations is that they are hobbled by Quarterly results and elections which a country like China can make long term investments.

  9. Brant Williams says:

    Just a manifestation of the “Green Power” cult mentality in this country. The simple truth is, there are not really many meaningful and scalable power generation methods out there. Nothing really significant has been discovered since the 40’s. It is now becoming VERY clear that conventional petroleum production peaked in 06 or 07. People who think that all these fantasy green power schemes can replace the pure mass of energy provided by petroleum never passed a physics, thermodynamics, or math class. They have no idea how much energy is consumed by our transportation system, or how our sprawl (suburban lifestyle, which drives down population density, making mass transit nearly impossible) multiplies this. Heck…most do not even know what a joule is. Long term, we are in for some very hard and very trying times… and the arrogant fools in the tech sector who think they are capable of saving us because they started up some internet company are a joke….

    1. valdobiade says:

      BW: People who think that all these fantasy green power schemes can replace the pure mass of energy provided by petroleum…

      Green power? Just a figment on sick people imagination…
      (Of course I am being sarcastic)

  10. Chris Finnegan says:

    This is yet another prime example of why competition will always be less productive, efficient and cost effective than collaboration.

  11. Valley_Veteran says:

    You do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that this company was doomed from the very beginning to fail. I am surprised that with so much talent in bay area the government could not double check in what they were investing in. With a cost of $4/watt to start with it was bound to fail. Equipment development is a very expensive ordeal and until the product is mass used and has a mass appeal one can forget trying to recover the equipment cost. I am afraid that there are other companies in the bay area that will follow the same path. trying to build a product for roof top only is just not economical.
    Respect the experience of the veteran engineers and let them mentor and guide the younger generations in validation of emerging industries so they are properly harnessed. The attitude of get rich quick with Internet type set mode for these industries will not work. There should be no manager in these types of industry who have less than 20 years of experience. If some internet savvy guy who made few millions in the internet boom and started a company to leverage the market, such companies are bound to fail. My heart reels to see such failure because things are managed by the wrong people by using the wrong inside and outside resources. The whole hiring process of the employees must have been bad and the Venture Capitalists must be looking for a government like model to run such companies

  12. kim says:

    And the CEO is ‘thanking everyone…how about me and you who are on the line for the gov’t guraranteed loan??? I live in the bay area not far from this place..YOu should see the building. No expense was spared in building this monument. Should sell it to O and he could use it for the presidental library.

  13. Don says:

    The company had been under scrutiny after receiving a $535 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy.

    And the fat cats at the top will get a golden parachute.

  14. Bagger says:

    Tesla right down the street will be the next to go in a few years once they burn through their $500 million loan guarantee.

    1. valdobiade says:

      Yep, resistance from oil companies is big and fierce. They have more money and power to derail solar energy research.
      I commute through the city at 25-35 miles per hour, and I see long lines of cars using gas. At these speeds nobody needs to use oil powered cars. It is polluting and fattening the pockets of monopolistic oil pigs.
      Tesla should make “city” cars not expensive electric sport cars.

      1. Mark says:

        Electric cars require electric plants which burn natural gas or nuclear energy.
        Solar and wind will never be the answer. Once again get real and think about what your saying.

      2. gb says:

        Actually, commuter cars are an excellent application to solar power. Charge up while at work each day for the commute home and the commute back to work the next day. Most of the time the car just sits… so charge it up during that time. It just happens to be the best time of day for solar collection as well.

  15. Atul says:

    First Nummi and now Solyndra….fremont is in bad shape

  16. Atul Arora says:

    First Nummi and now Solyndra….fremont is in bad shape

    1. User says:

      Then Tesla, and then Fremont itself……

  17. Lan Dawei says:

    My heart goes out to those who lost their jobs today. However, I was not happy that Solyndra received so much money in federal subsidies. I oppose this redistribution of wealth. Whether it is for farmers or high tech. Let the private sector put their money where their mouth is and subsidize this industry.

    There will be better results.

  18. Josh L says:

    They shouldnt have spen all their money building those fancy new buildings. Geez they just completed it a couple months ago, what a waste

  19. Alex Tong says:

    Here goes our tax money. Who is next?

  20. Mark ONeill says:

    What this means is that we must be very afraid every time the President mentions the word “Invest” because if this is how he “Invests Our Money” then we are all in trouble!

  21. Mat says:

    No expense was spared on Solyndra’s high-end campus. All facilities are of top quality and materials. Total mismanagement.

  22. HealthyBreeze says:

    Solyndra’s product arhictecture was inherently expensive no matter how many robots their factory had. First Solar with plants in Ohio, Germany and Malaysia, and expanding in Arizona, has a much more cost-efficient architecture, they operate at scale, and are still profitable even in the global solar market slowdown. Solyndra was mismanaged, no doubt. Solar is still the way to go to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The Chinese are formidable, so we really could use a big, predictable domestic market for solar to help get our industry up to speed.

  23. Dave says:

    In todays global market US has to develop long term strategy and plan to compete globally. With a forsight into the future global marke,t this should have been done a decade ago. Well still not too late to start working on it immediately. In absence of comprehensive global market competitive plan it is just a matter of time when you see another hightech company in Bankruptsy.

  24. Obamasux says:

    Obama handing out money again…and YES- Tesla is the next failure we gave $500MM to! What the USA needs is to stop being led around by the “Supply Side” and their corporate shills and flex our DEMAND Muscle! We are the #1 market on the planet- if you want to sell imported products here you will pay the IMPORT TARIFF! End ALL Nafta & “Free Trade” agreements and impose IMPORT TARIFFS! This will instantly end all budget problems, allow the lowering of taxes on everyone and is GREEN as they will not need to ship products from China on fuel-oil burning ships that have zero smog abatement systems!

  25. S says:

    This was more of company issues than Obama’s fault. When a company has to go bankrupt, the problems usually come from within, not the investors that gave them money. I believe that the company caved due to competition, lack of appropriate action and probably the demand for solar panels, among other internal things.

    1. Jay Vee says:

      Let’s say the truth Government Regulations make it impossible to competre.

  26. S says:

    by the way, private investors have put over a billion into this company.

  27. Take_gov_loan_and_BK?? says:

    take a $535 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy and then balley up? Seems like Obama really good policy is really working.
    Where did the money go ?

  28. WA says:

    That’s BS- im sure the CFO, CEO and board members saw this coming but didnt say anything to the workers! seems they were too busy embezzling the money they received from the Government!! Capitalism at its finest- the rich stays rich, and the middle income folks gets kicked in the curb again.

  29. Richard Wei says:

    Blame it on EPA standards and California that’ll drive any business out of business. Solar panel factories produce so much toxic wastes that is why 99% of solar panels are manufactured in countries like china without environmental restrictions.

  30. Metro says:

    Billion+ dollars evaporated and nobody went to jail. I have to get into this game.

  31. New_leader_needed says:

    Just imaging, $535 million, $535 million there, do you think we have so much $535 million to go to waste ? If you think so, then your are pure naive if not .Time for a new country leader, a true leader, ask questions, have visions, have courage, have guts to say the truth and do the right things, take responsibility.

  32. Greg says:

    Just found out today that I no longer had a job. On the radio no less. Glad to be out of there. That place was mismanaged from top to bottom. Unbelievable waste…. Don’t even get me started on their hiring practices, all based on affirmitive action or nepotism.. I knew this ship was sinking. Question wasn’t if but when. Hey former Solyndra employees stick around maybe a job shop will hire you back at a lower wage without bemefits to break down all the equipment and send it to China. What a frickin mess…

  33. Mark says:

    Solyndra is now shovel-ready.

  34. fourcrickets says:

    Well, if we continue thinking with blinders, focusing only on the present and the next few years, then yes, oil is superior in every way. However, anyone with half a clue can tell you that even if we squeeze every drop of available oil out of the Earth, it is a finite resource. The sun, on the other hand, should be around for about another billion years or so. Sooner we learn how to take advantage of that abundant source of energy, the better we’ll be — economically, environmentally, socially, etc., etc., etc.

    1. Billy says:

      Have you ever been outdoors? Sunlight is not particularly abundant. Even in the south you only get about I KW per square meter for about 4 hours a day in good weather. People lay in the sun for weeks to get a suntan. Where I live there is only about 60 days of sun per year.

      Sunlight is broad spectrum ranging from infrared through to ultraviolet and beyond. Collectors can only respond to a narrow frequency band so they only yield 6 to 9% of the 1 KW in commercial product. Not what I would call abundant,

      By the way, oil is not used to generate electricity except for small remote systems.

  35. jim says:

    HEY OBAMA and Van Jones ! HOW MANY GREEN JOBS DID YOU CREATE HERE with your $535 Million Dollar “investment” ?? Instead of using that money to promote your politics, it could have gone to good use to help the homeless and unemployed… SHAME ON YOU!!

  36. bob says:

    Looks like we just created 1200 more “Green Jobs” !!! ….. IN CHINA !!!

  37. Bob says:

    For those of you that are pro china”…………..may I suggest you turn in your U S Citizenship and relocate there. Let’s see how Much the quality of life improves for you then!

  38. Billy97 says:

    If you have a technology that doesn’t really work, then making a thousand or a million or a billion copies doesn’t make it better. Maybe a bit cheaper. Solar PV needs a quantum leap improvement to be viable. Storage also needs the same. As it is it is just a silly toy. You only buy it if the gov’t pays you to.

    When the subsidies run down the Chinese will be out of the business too.

  39. sickofthis says:

    Hate to tell everyone this, but this began with Clinton with investing in alternative fuels. Bush Sr.’s tax increase gave Clinton a surplus. W. Bush tried to eliminate it, but it was brought back by Obama. The Democrats want the government involved because they want to socialize the country. Everyone blames Bush for us struggling, but didn’t the Democrats win the House in 2006? So, basically, the Democrats have had just as much control since 2006 in the legislature and in 2008, they had both executive and legislature until 2010. Democrats are the problem. Get them out of office and the country will rebound. case and point: Look at California’s job growth during Pete Wilson as Governor and after.