DOE Offers $535 Million Loan Guarantee to Solyndra, Inc.

March 20, 2009

Photo from beneath a Solyndra solar panel, looking down a length of tubing with converging tubes above, converging shadows below, and support structures in the center.

This view from beneath a Solyndra solar panel shows blue sky through the gaps between the glass tubes, which cast shadows on the surface below. Support structures hold the panels about 10 inches above their mounting surface.
Credit: Solyndra, Inc.

DOE offered a $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra, Inc. on March 20 to support the construction of a commercial-scale manufacturing plant for its proprietary solar photovoltaic panels, which consist of arrays of glass tubes. The loan guarantee will be funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provides billions of dollars in loan guarantee authority to build a new green energy economy. As the first to be offered through the DOE Loan Guarantee Program, the loan guarantee was offered as a "conditional commitment," which requires Solyndra to meet an equity commitment, as well as other conditions, before the loan guarantee is closed. The situation is similar to that of a homebuyer earning approval on a loan, but still having to meet certain conditions before closing.

Solyndra's proprietary solar panel design transforms glass tubes into easy-to-install, inexpensive, high-performance solar panels, which can be installed on low-slope commercial, industrial, and institutional rooftops. Solyndra deposits thin films of copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS), a photovoltaic material, on the inner surface of glass tubes, which are then hermetically sealed on both ends with a metal caps. The glass tubes are then assembled into large, flat solar panels. The cylindrical design enables the CIGS material to capture direct, diffuse, and reflected sunlight, allowing the panels to be mounted flat and close together. This makes greater use of the rooftop area than a traditional flat solar panel, which is typically mounted in racks that tilt the panels toward the sun. The design also allows air to flow through the panels, keeping the operating temperature down and reducing wind loads, which in turn makes installation easier.

DOE will guarantee a $535 million loan from the U.S. Treasury's Federal Financing Bank, allowing Solyndra to build a new solar panel fabrication facility in California. Solyndra estimates that the facility will employ 3,000 people during its construction, and its operation will create nearly 1,000 U.S. jobs. In addition, hundreds of technicians will be needed to install the solar panels at projects located throughout the United States. See the DOE and Solyndra press releases, the Web site for the DOE Loan Guarantee Program, and Solyndra's overview of its solar panel technology.