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Published on September 15th, 2011 | by Stephen Lacey


Solyndra: Advanced by Bush for 2 Years (Solyndra Timeline)

September 15th, 2011 by  

bush flags

by Stephen Lacey and Richard Caperton

It’s often claimed that the Solyndra loan guarantee was “rushed through” by the Obama Administration for political reasons. In fact, the Solyndra loan guarantee was a multi-year process that the Bush Administration launched in 2007.

You’d never know from the media coverage that:

  1. The Bush team tried to conditionally approve the Solyndra loan just before President Obama took office.
  2. The company’s backers included private investors who had diverse political interests.
  3. The loan comprises just 1.3% of DOE’s overall loan portfolio. To date, Solyndra is the only loan that’s known to be troubled.

Because one of the Solyndra investors, Argonaut Venture Capital, is funded by George Kaiser — a man who donated money to the Obama campaign — the loan guarantee has been attacked as being political in nature. What critics don’t mention is that one of the earliest and largest investors, Madrone Capital Partners, is funded by the family that started Wal-Mart, the Waltons. The Waltons have donated millions of dollars to Republican candidates over the years.

With a stagnant job market and Obama sinking in the polls, the media has decided on a narrative that matches right-wing talking points but not the facts.  For instance, Bloomberg had this incredibly misleading headline yesterday, “Obama Team Backed $535 Million Solyndra Aid as Auditor Warned on Finances.”  If you replace “backed” with “touted,” that would be accurate.  But the headline makes it seem like the White House had decided to give $535 million to a company after an auditor had said it was financially troubled.

You have to read half the story to learn that the loan guarantee was made in 2009 and the audit was done in 2010 after market conditions had sharply worsened! And the Bloomberg story never explains that the company itself raised $250 million from private investors after the supposedly devastating audit!

To set the record straight, Climate Progress is publishing this timeline — verified by Department of Energy officials — that shows how the loan guarantee came together under both administrations. In fact, rather than rushing the loan for Solyndra through, the Obama Administration restructured the original Bush-era deal to further protect the taxpayers’ investment:


May 2005: Just as a global silicon shortage begins driving up prices of solar photovoltaics, Solyndra is founded to provide a cost-competitive alternative to silicon-based panels.

July 2005: The Bush Administration signs the Energy Policy Act of 2005 into law, creating the 1703 loan guarantee program.

February 2006 – October 2006: In February, Solyndra raises its first round of venture financing worth $10.6 million from CMEA Capital, Redpoint Ventures, and U.S. Venture Partners. In October, Argonaut Venture Capital, an investment arm of George Kaiser, invests $17 million into Solyndra. Madrone Capital Partners, an investment arm of the Walton family, invests $7 million. Those investments are part of a $78.2 million fund.

December 2006: Solyndra Applies for a Loan Guarantee under the 1703 program.

Late 2007: Loan guarantee program is funded. Solyndra was one of 16 clean-tech companies deemed ready to move forward in the due diligence process. The Bush Administration DOE moves forward to develop a conditional commitment.

October 2008: Then Solyndra CEO Chris Gronet touted reasons for building in Silicon Valley and noted that the “company’s second factory also will be built in Fremont, since a Department of Energy loan guarantee mandates a U.S. location.”

November 2008: Silicon prices remain very high on the spot market, making non-silicon based thin film technologies like Solyndra’s very attractive to investors. Solyndra also benefits from having very low installation costs. The company raises $144 million from ten different venture investors, including the Walton-family run Madrone Capital Partners. This brings total private investment to more than $450 million to date.

January 2009: In an effort to show it has done something to support renewable energy, the Bush Administration tries to take Solyndra before a DOE credit review committee before President Obama is inaugurated. The committee, consisting of career civil servants with financial expertise, remands the loan back to DOE “without prejudice” because it wasn’t ready for conditional commitment.

March 2009: The same credit committee approves the strengthened loan application. The deal passes on to DOE’s credit review board. Career staff (not political appointees) within the DOE issue a conditional commitment setting out terms for a guarantee.

June 2009: As more silicon production facilities come online while demand for PV wavers due to the economic slowdown, silicon prices start to drop. Meanwhile, the Chinese begin rapidly scaling domestic manufacturing and set a path toward dramatic, unforeseen cost reductions in PV. Between June of 2009 and August of 2011, PV prices drop more than 50%.

September 2009: Solyndra raises an additional $219 million. Shortly after, the DOE closes a $535 million loan guarantee after six months of due diligence. This is the first loan guarantee issued under the 1703 program. From application to closing, the process took three years – not the 41 days that is sometimes reported.  OMB did raise some concerns in August not about the loan itself but how the loan should be “scored.”  OMB testified Wednesday that they were comfortable with the final scoring.

January – June 2010: As the price of conventional silicon-based PV continues to fall due to low silicon prices and a glut of solar modules, investors and analysts start questioning Solyndra’s ability to compete in the marketplace. Despite pulling its IPO (as dozens of companies did in 2010), Solyndra raises an additional $175 million from investors.

November 2010: Solyndra closes an older manufacturing facility and concentrates operations at Fab 2, the plant funded by the $535 million loan guarantee. The Fab 2 plant is completed that same month — on time and on budget — employing around 3,000 construction workers during the build-out, just as the DOE projected.

February 2011: Due to a liquidity crisis, investors provide $75 million to help restructure the loan guarantee. The DOE rightly assumed it was better to give Solyndra a fighting chance rather than liquidate the company – which was a going concern – for market value, which would have guaranteed significant losses.

March 2011: Republican Representatives complain that DOE funds are not being spent quickly enough.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI): “despite the Administration’s urgency and haste to pass the bill [the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] … billions of dollars have yet to be spent.”

And House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL): “The whole point of the Democrat’s stimulus bill was to spend billions of dollars … most of the money still hasn’t been spent.”

June 2011: Average selling prices for solar modules drop to $1.50 a watt and continue on a pathway to $1 a watt. Solyndra says it has cut costs by 50%, but analysts worry how the company will compete with the dramatic changes in conventional PV.

August 2011: DOE refuses to restructure the loan a second time.

September 2011: Solyndra closes its manufacturing facility, lays off 1,100 workers and files for bankruptcy. The news is touted as a failure of the Obama Administration and the loan guarantee office. However, as of September 12, the DOE loan programs office closed or issued conditional commitments of $37.8 billion to projects around the country. The $535 million loan is only 1.3% of DOE’s loan portfolio. To date, Solyndra is the only loan that’s known to be troubled.

Meanwhile, after complaining about stimulus funds moving too quickly, Congressmen Fred Upton and Cliff Stearns are now claiming that the Administration was pushing funds out the door too quickly: “In the rush to get stimulus cash out the door, despite repeated claims by the Administration to the contrary, some bets were bad from the beginning.”

What critics fail to mention is that the Solyndra deal is more than three years old, started under the Bush Administration, which tried to conditionally approve the loan right before Obama took office. Rather than “pushing funds out the door too quickly,” the Obama Administration restructured the original loan when it came into office to further protect the taxpayers’ investment.

Stephen Lacey is a reporter/blogger with Climate Progress and Richard Caperton is a senior policy analyst with the energy team at the Center for American Progress.

This story was originally published at ClimateProgress.org and was cross-posted with permission.

Image Credit: AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by feastoffun.com

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About the Author

is an editor at Greentech Media. Formerly, he was a reporter/blogger for Climate Progress, where he wrote about clean energy policy, technologies, and finance. Before joining CP, he was an editor/producer with RenewableEnergyWorld.com. He received his B.A. in journalism from Franklin Pierce University.

  • The only green energy loan that’s known to be troubled? There are numerous other green energy loans that are “known to be troubled”. I have a problem accepting any of your points when you include lies. If you do about 10 seconds of google searching you should be able to verify the truthfulness of that statement. By the way, Bush did not push the loan, Obama did. The investors in the project were large bundlers to the Obama campaign. The investors were “made whole” by the loan so the financial losses of the failure were left to the taxpayers. Since most Obama supporters aren’t tax payers, I suppose he was still looking out for them.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Jon, you’re wrong.

      The Bush administration pushed on the review committee to complete the loan prior to Bush leaving office so that they would have a ‘green’ thing on their record.

      There were no Obama bundlers invested in Solyndra. The conservative Walton (Walmart) family were investors. Solyndra’s CEO was a Republican.

      Someone has fed you some phony information.

      You’ve even bought the lie that working Americans don’t pay taxes. I’m betting you get your pseudo-news from Fox.

  • Dubya looks lovely in his flag skirt!

  • Greg Traver

    I must have missed the entry where the Bush administration denied funding two weeks before the Obama administration came into office. Nor did I see mention of the fact that economic advisors warned that if Solyndra recieved funding they would be bankrupt by Sept 2011. The fact is they ARE bankrupt, it was a terrible business plan to try to compete with Chinese firms that had a better product at cheaper cost. If it were legit, they would not be pleading the Fifth right now, would they?

  • Anonymous

    Dude, again, there is nothing surprising here. Obama & Chu have a stronger clean energy agenda. This agenda has resulted in thousands of jobs, nearly doubled employment in the solar industry in a year, and is helping our economy tremendously

  • CBP

    NO the loan was denied by Bush and his admin. Obama and his admin APPROVED the loan.

  • Anonymous

    More on this:

    “Solyndra submitted its initial application in 2006 and much of the extensive due diligence on the transaction was conducted between 2006 and the end of 2008. By late 2008, Solyndra was considered by those involved in the DOE loan programs to be the most advanced in the due diligence process, and the likely recipient of the program’s first loan guarantee. In fact, by the time Obama Administration took office in late January 2009, the loan programs’ staff had already established a goal of, and timeline for, issuing the company a conditional loan guarantee commitment in March 2009.”


    • Anonymous

      I see in many of your responses you are asking people for proof while at the same time providing no documented proof of your own.

      At the Huffington Post you can read the document from the Bush DOE (dated Jan 9, 2009) that remanded the application back to the Loan Guarantee Program Office for more extensive information and study. The committee provided 4 main areas that disqualified the application from approval: 1. lack of an independent market study and the reference to obsolescence in the companies report, 2. documentation on the supposed sales agreements was not provided to the government to assess future earnings, 3. they questioned the strength of the parent guarantee for the project, and 4. there was significant concern regarding the scaling of production assumed in the proposed plan.

      In essence the committee remanded the loan application (without prejudice) because of questionable assumptions, documentation, and plans. It wasn’t a flat denial, but the information required to support an approval seemed to be quite high and the committee seemed quite skeptical at that point.

      The HuffPo article is titled “Solyndra: White House Pushes Back As House Republicans Probe Loan Guarantees”. The link is in the 13th paragraph.

      • Anonymous

        “At the Huffington Post you can read the document from the Bush DOE (dated Jan 9, 2009) that remanded the application back to the Loan Guarantee Program Office for more extensive information and study.” Yes, we’ve already covered this — it was sent back for more work. This happens. Big deal.

        • Northchr

          Apparently it was a big deal.

    • Anonymous

      Additionally you can see that one of the first emails after Obama was sworn in (dated January 26, 2009) stated “As we are approaching the beginning of the approval process for Solyndra again, …”, not something that LGPO would usually state if the process had not been effectively killed under Bush. You can also see the email dated March 9th, 2009 states that the DOE is now pushing to “deliver the first loan guarantee within 60 days from inauguration (the prior administration could not get it done in 4 years)”

      If you look at the facts honestly, it is tough to argue that the Obama administration was just continuing the process that the Bush administration had set up.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, the Bush admin. was slow as heck to get anything done for the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the climate we rely on to live comfortably. What’s new? Was there an expectation when Obama came in we’d get moving on clean energy faster? Yes. Does this email show that was a priority? Yes. Where is the news?

        • Anonymous

          Um… you asked for “Proof” that the Bush administration had killed the loan. Hence the above posts and references to actual documentation. I believe “the news” is that Solyndra’s collapse was significant enough to attempt to blame Bush for authorizing the loan … exactly what your article attempted to do. I was answering your call for “proof” while trying to push you to include “proof” for any of your assertions. Please provide the documents that you are suing for your above article.

          • Anonymous

            First of all, this is not proof that Bush “killed” the project. As I just said. More information and studies were requested. The request was not Killed.

            Secondly, if you haven’t noticed, I didn’t write this article. I’m just responding to the trolls dropping inane comments here.

            No one tried to blame Bush for the failure. The point was that this is a project that went through the bureaucratic process for years, starting in the Bush administration. Don’t be so sensitive and defensive.

            I’m not sure what proof you are looking for. For what?

  • Darkchocolate70

    Hey, it isn’t like this web site has a vested interest in Government handing out billions to “green” companies is it….


    • well, considering that we would get none of that, No, we don’t..

    • Anonymous

      No, we don’t. We don’t and wouldn’t get anything from the gov’t.

  • Darkchocolate70

    yada yada yada.

    Let’s see what the Treasury Department, the IRS, the FBI, the Senate & House Judiciary Committees, and Obama under oath say….

    Impeach Obama now.

    • Wow, one investment goes wrong, out of hundreds, and you want to impeach our President. Ridiculous

    • Anonymous

      Wow, you must be kidding me. One investment out of hundreds or even thousands doesn’t work out and it’s time to impeach the President?! Crazy if you actually believe in what you are promoting

  • Anonymous

    Gosh, the call seems to have gotten out that Koch-boys can make their fifty cents on this thread, I do believe.

    We do have an unresolved issue here. Did the DOE “shelve” the Solyandra proposal as the ABC reporter states or “The committee, consisting of career civil servants with financial expertise, remands the loan back to DOE “without prejudice” because it wasn’t ready for conditional commitment” as Lacey reports?

    I tend to go with Lacey’s version as he has more meat in his sentence and the use of the word shelve could simply be a word-saving way of reporting the same event.

    I also not that in March 2009 the same committee approved the application after it had been revised. Nothing unusual about a proposal being sent back for more work and then accepted.

    Perhaps Stephen could clear this up.


    And, guys or guy, enjoy that 1/3rd of a Mountain Dew each dump earns you.

    What a miserable little existence that must be, working for less than minimum wage and zero benefits….

  • Sofaking

    What a joke article!! BLAME BUSH!! BLAME BUSH!! Solyndra was a failure from DAY 1. They were not manufacturing traditional Solar PV panels. They had UNPROVEN, UNBANKABLE technology and the PROVEN, BANKABLE technology won out and the costs to produce it and the increases in efficiencies drovw down prices along with the world-wide demand for TRADITIONAL SOLAR PV PANELS. The DOE under the Bush admin. didn’t “bring this loan application in” it was pushed hard by Solynda and their Energy Lobbyists but the Proformas were always weak – it showed them running out of cash under several scenarios. This was CLEARLY an Obama agenda and the “career staffers” at the DOE were forced into doing this deal.

    • Anonymous

      “Career staffers at the DOE were forced into” it? Get real!

      Lacey very clearly shows that backers of both sides of the aisle invested in this project and it moved forward for two years under Bush to get to the point where it could, before long, get loan guarantees from the federal govt.

      I’m sorry that this failure representing 1.3% of DOE’s funds was not just a failure of the Obama administration (and, seriously, who expects 100% of their investments to bring in a return?). Yes, the technology was undercut by China and Europe’s tremendous clean energy push and dropping costs, but a slight historical difference and Solyndra could have been a great success.

  • Attaaaaaack Waaaaaaaatch!

    This article is pure rubbish. Void of any factual context as to how the Bush admin handled that loan. The denied it plain and simple because it wasn’t good. Obama pushed it through despite the warnings.

    • Anonymous

      And where are your facts?

      Thanks for dumping fact-less claims in our comments just after complaining about not seeing facts… nice

      trolls unite!

      • Anonymous

        They’re just wasting your time. Time that could be better spent more productively and constructively elsewhere. Don’t let them discourage you. These people are so far sold, it’s typically a waste of time to present them real facts. They won’t bother. It’s almost as if their mission is just to confuse and cloud a conversation. It’s just distracting.

  • AttackWatcher

    Yeah, you might want to get your facts straight. Here is an article from a real news source: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/solyndra-blame-bush-obama-officials/story?id=14513389

    Here is a quote about internal emails that indicate:

    ” the panel evaluating the loans had made the unanimous decision to shelve Solyndra’s application two weeks before Obama took office.”

    • Anonymous

      Just because “ABC says so”, it’s gospel now? So, you’re only information source is what the mainstream media fed you. Thanks for making it clear.

  • FormerLib

    Wow, this article is just wrong! Wizardsmachine is CORRECT. Check your facts. The Bush administration DENIED the loan and Obama pushed it through. Obama sat in on board meetings. Obama hosted them over a dozen times in the WH. This is why journalism is considered dead. There is no unbiased journalism and you should be ashamed of yourself for attempting to push your agenda over reporting truth.

    • Anonymous

      Where are your facts coming from if you are so certain? As Lacey reports, it was not DENIED, just not rushed through before Bush was out of office and Obama took over:

      “In an effort to show it has done something to support renewable energy, the Bush Administration tries to take Solyndra before a DOE credit review committee before President Obama is inaugurated. The committee, consisting of career civil servants with financial expertise, remands the loan back to DOE “without prejudice” because it wasn’t ready for conditional commitment.”

      Don’t diss on journalism or this blogger just bcs you don’t like the result.

      • Anonymous

        They’re just wasting your time ZShahan3. It’s time that could be better spent doing more of your brilliant blogging. Keep up the great work!! (The game is they make an offensive point, and put you in the position of presenting all kinds of details, or their point stands they say. That’s the game. Basically it puts you in the position of doing lots of work for them. If they’ve got a point, let them back it up with a bibliography of facts, or let the point die and evaporate as the falsity that it is.). Sometimes the best defense is to let the offense just spin their wheels, rather than let them consume your time and energy. I feel bad for many people. They’re just too easily sold by the bad sales people (deceivers), and media machines. Food doesn’t grow there. There are many people out there who realize what you’re doing is accurate and excellent. Keep it up.

    • DOKU

      Get serious. If journalism is considered dead, it’s all thanks to FOX NEWS and the like. Wizardsmachine? HAHAHHAhAHA. Jackass1

  • Wizardsmachine

    WRONGO! The loan was kicked out by Bush, and RUSHED as priority (14 visits to WH) by The Ataaaaaaaack Waaaaaatch Obummer group.

    • Anonymous

      False, I do believe.

      ” In an effort to show it has done something to support renewable energy, the Bush Administration tries to take Solyndra before a DOE credit review committee before President Obama is inaugurated. The committee, consisting of career civil servants with financial expertise, remands the loan back to DOE “without prejudice” because it wasn’t ready for conditional commitment.”

    • Anonymous

      A lot of cleantech stuff was sped up, as it was going forward at a turtle’s pace under Bush. Yes, this one one piece of that much larger pie. The loan was not kicked out under Bush. In fact, it seems he tried to rush it through before Obama took over.

  • Rick247

    The loan was denied under Bush, approved under Obama, with support from Obama, paid with Obama money to a Obama supporter.

    • Anonymous

      The funders of the project included supporters of both sides of the aisle. The project clearly moved forward under Bush. Yes, it was a long process that had ups & downs and finalized in the Obama administration, but it was clearly not just given the loan guarantees bcs of a single Obama supporter involved in the project.

      • Guest

        Wrongo! The loan was DENIED under Bush. Stop the lies. Stop telling half truths. Ataaaaaaack Waaaaaaaaaatch.

        • Anonymous

          As we point out above, it was not DENIED, it just wasn’t rushed through.

          “In an effort to show it has done something to support renewable energy, the Bush Administration tries to take Solyndra before a DOE credit review committee before President Obama is inaugurated. The committee, consisting of career civil servants with financial expertise, remands the loan back to DOE “without prejudice” because it wasn’t ready for conditional commitment.”

          • Anonymous

            @ZShahan3. What they say is what they are. Their the ones on the attack with the half truths and nonsense. (some people genuinely believe their confused, lack of facts rhetoric unfortunately. Some good people have fallen for the nonsense too easily. very disapointing. They just eat up whatever the main stream media sends them without question or any research. That’s the biggest problem ). Try not to confuse them with the facts too much. They just stress out, because it conflicts with their locked belief system.

          • Anonymous

            Thanks, dude.

      • CBP

        NO the loan was DENIED under Bush, that’s why they reapplied when obama was elected and obama said – okey dokey

    • Arthur Salcido

      The loan was never denied under Bush. The Bush team tried to approve the Solyndra loan before Obama took office but the DOE wanted more information to approve the loan application. This didn’t happen until March 2009, two months after Obama took office.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Some more…

        The people whom the Bush administration pushed to approve the Solyndra loan were exactly the same people who approved the loan once the application was approved.

        Unlike what the Bush administration did, the Obama administration put no pressure on the review committee to approve the loan.

        The loan was not given to ” a Obama supporter”. The loan was given to a company whose CEO was a Republican.

        The investors in Solyndra include the quite conservative Walton (WalMart) family.

        If you go back and read the articles written about Solyndra you’ll see that the conservative financial press spoke highly of Solyndra’s technology at the time.

        This was a project supported by both conservative and liberal sides. It was widely seen as a good idea when the price of solar panels was very high. The price of solar fell extremely quickly, which no one had predicted.

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