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Fremont’s Solyndra, Solar Tech Firm, Shuts Down and Lays Off 1,100

| August 31, 2011
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Solyndra says it is laying off 1,100 workers immediately as it’s shutting down and filing for bankruptcy “while it evaluates options, including a sale of the business and licensing of its advanced CIGS technology and manufacturing expertise. Here’s the full statement from the company. GreenTech Media looks at the prospects for all or parts of Solyndra getting bought here.

NBC Bay Area caught up with a laid-off Solyndra worker outside the company’s plant today. Video here.

Both Solyndra and electric-vehicle maker Tesla provided neat examples on a locally specific level for those pointing to a hoped-for transition in manufacturing to green technology — and green jobs. After the NUMMI automotive plant in Fremont shut down, Tesla took over part of the facility. Then Solyndra signed a huge lease for 1.4 million square feet of space in Fremont.

In May, 2010, President Obama visited Solyndra and held it up as an example of the kind of green-energy firm the administration was trying to cultivate. The company received a $535 million federal loan guarantee from the Department of Energy in 2009.

Here’s video of Obama’s remarks that day:

Text of Obama’s address here, extracts below:

I try to visit places like this about once a week, hear from folks as often as possible who are actually doing the extraordinary work of building up America. And I appreciated the chance to tour your plant and to see the incredible, cutting-edge solar panels that you’re manufacturing, but also the process that goes into the manufacturing of these solar panels. And it is just a testament to American ingenuity and dynamism and the fact that we continue to have the best universities in the world, the best technology in the world, and most importantly the best workers in the world. And you guys all represent that. So thank you very much for that…

So we recognized that we’ve got to go back to basics. We’ve got to go back to making things. We’ve got to go back to exports. We’ve got to go back to innovation. And we recognized that there was only so much government could do. The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra, will always be America’s businesses. But that doesn’t mean the government can just sit on the sidelines. Government still has the responsibility to help create the conditions in which students can gain an education so they can work at Solyndra, and entrepreneurs can get financing so they can start a company, and new industries can take hold…

Here at this site, Solyndra expects to make enough solar panels each year to generate 500 megawatts of electricity. And over the lifetime of this expanded facility, that could be like replacing as many as eight coal-fired power plants. It’s also worth noting, to achieve this doubling of our share of solar capacity, we actually need to make four times as many solar panels, because other countries are adding capacity, too. Nobody in this race is standing still.

So here’s the type of headline running right now, from ABC News:

White House-Backed Solar Energy Company Collapses

Or this one, from NBC Bay Area:

Solyndra Filing a Disaster for Obama

The Solyndra news comes on top of recent reports questioning the promise of a green-tech jobs revolution. Two weeks ago, the Bay Citizen ran a story about the disappointingly low number of “clean” jobs created in the past few years.

A study released in July by the non-partisan Brookings Institution found clean-technology jobs accounted for just 2 percent of employment nationwide and only slightly more — 2.2 percent — in Silicon Valley. Rather than adding jobs, the study found, the sector actually lost 492 positions from 2003 to 2010 in the South Bay, where the unemployment rate in June was 10.5 percent.

Federal and state efforts to stimulate creation of green jobs have largely failed, government records show. Two years after it was awarded $186 million in federal stimulus money to weatherize drafty homes, California has spent only a little over half that sum and has so far created the equivalent of just 538 full-time jobs in the last quarter, according to the State Department of Community Services and Development.

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Category: Business and Finance, Energy, Environment

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