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Solyndra: Fab 2 Construction Begins

The California CIGS thin-film company breaks ground on its second factory complex, which will be partly financed by the federal $535 million loan.

There were sho vels and dirt. Go v. Schwarzenegger and Energy Secretary Steve Chu. And a pre-Labo r Day fanfare to make the po int that a hefty investment o f public mo ney in a startup so lar panel co mpany will create jo bs and mo re jo bs. So lyndra held a gro und-breaking ceremo ny Friday mo rning fo r its seco nd facto ry (Fab 2) co mplex less than a mile fro m its headquarters in Fremo nt, Calif.

The co mpany has garnered a lo t o f attentio n no t o nly fo r its unusual so lar panel design, but also fo r being the first co mpany to receive a U.S. Department o f Energy Lo an guarantee funded by the American Reco very and Reinvestment Act. "If yo u build a better so lar panel, then the wo rld will beat a path to yo ur do o r," Chu said. In fact, the lo an guarantee is the first fro m the DOE since the 19 8 0 s, said Chu o n stage. Chu first anno unced the $535 millio n lo an guarantee in March this year, but it wasn't until recently that the DOE and So lyndra finalized the details o f the financial arrangement. With this financial help, the Obama administratio n is casting So lyndra as a ro le mo del fo r its effo rts to pump up the eco no my. Every speaker at the gro und breaking ceremo ny, including Vice President Jo e Biden, who spo ke via satellite, talked abo ut same two things: jo bs and clean energy. The facto ry co nstructio n sho uld generate jo bs fo r abo ut 3,0 0 0 peo ple. The facto ry itself will pro vide o ver 1,0 0 0 jo bs, the co mpany said. Schwarzenegger o ffered this zinger: "We are here to say, 'Hasta la vista, glo bal warming!' " With the lo an guarantee, So lyndra is bo rro wing the mo ney fro m the U.S. Treasury's Federal Financing Bank. The co mpany also raised $19 8 millio n in an equity ro und led by Argo naut Private Equity fo r building Fab 2, So lyndra said Friday. Fab 2 wo uld be large eno ugh to eventually acco mmo date an annual pro ductio n capacity o f 50 0 megawatts o f panels. Building this facto ry is crucial fo r So lydra to deliver o n ro ughly $ 2 billio n wo rt h o f co nt ract s to custo mers in the United States and Euro pe. Its custo mers include Gecko Lo gic, Pho enix So lar and Carlisle Energy Services. "We are agents o f change," said So lyndra CEO Chris Gro net during his turn at the po dium. "We'll make a difference o ne cell at a time, o ne mo dule at a time, o ne gigawatt at a time." The co mpany, fo unded in 20 0 5, began co mmercial pro ductio n last summer. Its first facto ry co mplex has equipment to pro duce 20 0 megawatts o f so lar panels. So lyndra's so lar panel design has attracted bo th fascinatio n and skepticism. Instead o f a flat surface like a co nventio nal so lar panel, So lyndra's invo lves a series o f so lar-cell filled tubes lying side by side inside an aluminum frame. The cylindrical design enables so lar cells to capture diffused and reflected light, the co mpany

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said. So lyndra, which also has designed a lo w-pro file rack to ho ld the panels, is targeting the co mmercial ro o fto p market. The panel-and-rack design shave s labo r t im e and co st s , the co mpany said. The so lar cells use a co mpo und o f co pper, indium, gallium and selenium (CIGS) fo r co nverting sunlight into electricity. The use o f these materials also is fairly new fo r the market, which is do minated by cells made with silico n. Its fello w CIGS co mpanies include Nano so lar, Miaso le and Helio vo lt. But no ne has garnered the spo tlight o r anno unced the huge co ntracts like So lyndra has. Incidentally, Nano so lar also is po ised to make so me big anno uncement next week. The San Jo se, Calif., startup t o o k do wn it s we bsit e earlier this week.

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Gov. Schwarzenegger and Energy Secretary Steve Chu break ground with Solyndra execs.

Pictured above: Chris Gronet, CEO of Solyndra (left), Energy Secretary Chu (middle), and Ben Bierman, VP of global operations at Solyndra (right).

Solyndra executives take Energy Secretary Chu on a factory tour.

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