Solyndra: Green, Going and Gone
On August 31, 2011 the news was that Solyndra, the big solar collector company in Fremont, California, was declaring bankruptcy. Fremont is part of the Silicon Valley neighborhood. It is home to Lam Research, one of the old silicon wafer tool companies, as well as the old NUMI car factory, now the home to electric car start-up, Tesla Motors. Solyndra has a beautiful new plant right next to I-880, the freeway between San Jose and Oakland, California.
President Obama came to Solyndra on May 26, 2010 to campaign for the re-election of California Senator Barbara Boxer and to highlight DOE funding for Solyndra. That funding initiative resulted in a $535 million Department of Energy loan guarantee. Hopefully the DOE will get access to Solyndra assets, including patents and real estate, as a creditor through the bankruptcy court. (The Tesla Morors company has a DOE loan guarantee of $465 million also. A nice even $1 billion tied up in two green start-up companies right next door to each other.)
The goal of this direct investment by the US taxpayer seems to be innovation. Who could argue with smart people picking smart ideas to bootstrap American competitiveness in a fast moving world of new ideas and shifting economies. Doing it in Silicon Valley, home to Steve Jobs and Apple, is even better.
From the 1970s-2000 much of the government support of innovation was basic research and purchase of new products developed by new companies in the "Information Age" business. Cisco routers for the Intelligence agencies, Oracle databases that were developed first at the CIA, Sun Microsystem desktop workstations for the Air Force (Sun sold 60% of its equipment to the US Government in the mid-late 1990's.) Everybody from NASA to the US Army bought integrated circuits, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory had semiconductor research initiatives to help make semiconductor line widths smaller and smaller.Continued on the next page