Solyndra: 'Bad bet or the tip of the iceberg?'

As Washington policymakers point fingers over the failure of a single federally backed solar company, the entire renewable-energy industry could end up being the big loser.

A House investigations subcommittee on Wednesday held the first of what will be at least two congressional hearings on the $535 million federal loan guarantee the Energy Department green-lighted in September 2009 for California-based Solyndra. The company's top executives are expected to testify before the same panel on Sept. 23. Solyndra, which President Obama once portrayed as a prototype of renewable energy's potential, is now spiraling into bankruptcy and facing an FBI probe.

Top officials from the Energy Department's loan guarantee program and the White House Office of Management and Budget testified Wednesday, noting that the loan process for Solyndra dated back to the George W. Bush administration. They also argued that a single failing company is not emblematic of the value of government loan guarantees to other renewable energy firms.

The White House echoed that testimony. "As the Department of Energy has made clear, they have always recognized that not every one of the innovative companies helped would succeed, but we can't stop investing in game-changing technologies that are key to America's leadership in the global economy," said White House spokesman Eric Schultz. "While we are disappointed by this particular outcome, we continue to believe the clean energy jobs race is one that America can, must and will win."

But the optics alone surrounding Solyndra, including the congressional hearings and questions about the White House handling of the case, could further depress a renewable energy industry already enjoying only limited support in Congress.

"Is Solyndra one bad bet or the tip of the iceberg?" asked House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich.

In 2009, Solyndra was the first company to receive a federal clean-energy loan guarantee as part of the stimulus package.%C2%A0 The Fremont, Calif.-based maker of solar photovoltaic systems then received photo-op visits from Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, all touting the job-generating potential of solar and other renewable energy industries.

But on Aug. 31, Solyndra shuttered operations, laying off its 1,100 workers while seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Most clean energy experts and investors say Solyndra's demise was an anomaly, not indicative of the health of other renewable energy companies. Solyndra sold an unusual type of solar panel that ultimately did not succeed in the global markets.

But Solyndra's impact in Washington could be another story.

"It could have a very significant adverse implication as it relates to the continuation of federal financing for clean energy," said Michael Schwartz, CEO of New Wave Energy Capital Partners, an energy investment and strategic advisory firm. "This bankruptcy will be used by the opponents to justify not supporting any new federal financing for clean energy."

House Republicans have already passed legislation axing most of the federal government's support for renewable energy, and the Solyndra saga will only strengthen Republican hands. In addition, Energy Department funds for renewable energy loan guarantees expire at the end of this month.

One of the GOP's few vocal supporters of clean energy, Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., lamented Solyndra's failing in Wednesday's hearing. He said the government needs to be more careful in vetting loan guarantees, but should not use Solyndra's bankruptcy as a reason to end support for renewable energy. "It needs to be driven by science and a good investment, not by the assumption that whatever is renewable is going to be great," he said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.