Cringe time at White House as one-time solar fave' goes bust

President Barack Obama heads inside to deliver a speech after meeting with construction workers building a new Solyndra solar panel factory May 26, 2010 in Fremont, California. Getty Images

WASHINGTON - Solyndra LLC, a California solar-panel manufacturer that received a $535 million loan from the U.S. government, has announced layoffs of 1,100 workers and plans to file for bankruptcy.

The company said that global economic conditions have forced it to suspend its manufacturing operations. This marks a swift fall for a company that enjoyed strong growth in the first half of 2001, particularly in North America, where it inked several deals for large commercial rooftop installations.

But under pressure from foreign competition - particularly from China - Solyndra said it could not achieve full-scale operations rapidly enough to compete. It pointed to myriad challenges including governmental uncertainty in Europe, the decline in credit markets, a global oversupply of solar panels and the subsequent reduction in prices as too much to bear.

"Regulatory and policy uncertainties in recent months created significant near-term excess supply and price erosion," Solyndra's President and Chief Executive Officer Brian Harrison said in a statement.

The White House has made clean energy - in particular, solar - one of its key talking points in its discussion of alternative energy investments. To demonstrate the government's support and highlight the economic benefits of the solar industry, President Barack Obama toured Solyndra's facilities last year. However, the bloom is coming off the proverbial rose as the Solyndra bankruptcy filing is the third such announcement from a U.S. solar maker in the last month.

In a post on its website today, the Department of Energy acknowledged the Solyndra news but maintained that it continues to believe that "the clean energy jobs race is one that America can, must and will win."

House Republicans have criticized the March 2009 government loan. The money was used to expand manufacturing capacity in Fremont, Calif. The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted in July to subpoena White House documents related to the approval.

One option for the company's bankruptcy include the licensing of its CIGS technology and manufacturing expertise and an outright sale of its business.

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