Bankruptcy of Solyndra, once touted by President Obama, is third failure of a US solar firm this month. Bankruptcy will serve as fuel for critics of government stimulus.
A California solar-panel manufacturer once touted by President Barack Obama as a beneficiary of his administration's economic policies — as well as a half-billion-dollar federal loan — is laying off 1,100 workers and filing for bankruptcy.
Solyndra LLC of Fremont, Calif., had become the poster child for government investment in green technology. The president visited the company in May 2010 and noted that Solyndra expected to hire 1,000 workers to manufacture solar panels. Other state and federal officials such as former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Energy Secretary Steven Chu also visited the company's facilities.
But hard times have hit the nation's solar industry. Solyndra is the third solar company to seek bankruptcy protection this month. Officials said Wednesday that the global economy as well as unfavorable conditions in the solar industry combined to force the company to suspend its manufacturing operations.
The price for solar panels has tanked in part because of heavy competition from Chinese companies, dropping by about 42 percent this year.
Republicans have been looking into the Solyndra loan for months. The House Energy and Commerce Committee subpoenaed documents relating to the loan from the White House Office of Management and Budget. GOP Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan and Cliff Stearns of Florida issued a joint statement on Wednesday saying it was clear that Solyndra was a dubious investment.
"We smelled a rat from the onset," the two lawmakers said.
Shortly after the company's announcement, it became clear that the bankruptcy would serve as further ammunition to criticize an economic stimulus bill that provided seed money for solar startups — even though officials said interest in providing Solyndra with guaranteed government loans was first sought under the Bush administration.
Upton and Stearns said they would continue to seek documents that would provide more details about the Solyndra loan.
"Unfortunately, Solyndra is just the latest casualty of the Obama administration's failed stimulus, emblematic of an economic policy that has not worked and will not work. We hope this informs the president ahead of his address to Congress next week," the GOP lawmakers said.
When Obama, who is seeking to address Congress to unveil a new jobs plan, toured the company's facilities, he said the investment was important because more clean energy would benefit the environment, the economy and national security.
"The future is here," Obama said during his visit. "We're poised to transform the ways we power our homes and our cars and our businesses. ... And we are poised to generate countless new jobs, good-paying, middle-class jobs, right here in the United States of America."