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FBI, Energy Department raid offices of solar-panel maker Solyndra

September 8, 2011 | 11:04 am

FBI raids Solyndra, a solar panel maker that received aid from the Obama administration.
The FBI and the Energy Department's inspector general's office are executing a search warrant at the Fremont, Calif., headquarters of solar panel maker Solyndra. The raid came just two days after the company declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a move that raised serious concerns about the Obama administration's granting of a $500-million-plus federal loan guarantee to Solyndra in the fall of 2009.

FBI Public Affairs Specialist Peter D. Lee confirmed that the company's headquarters had been targeted, adding that the raid was still underway late Thursday morning. Lee said he was unable to disclose further details about what the FBI and the Energy Department was hoping to find.

Lee said that the raid documents were under seal.

Solyndra is a manufacturer of solar power systems for rooftop applications on commercial buildings. Earlier this week, the company said in a press release that "global economic and solar industry market conditions" had forced it to suspend its manufacturing operations. The company has laid off its 1,100 full-time and temporary employees.

"Despite strong growth in the first half of 2011 and traction in North America with a number of orders for very large commercial rooftops, Solyndra could not achieve full-scale operations rapidly enough to compete in the near term with the resources of larger foreign manufacturers," the company said.

Solyndra was one of about 40 alternative energy projects funded over the last two years through an Energy Department loan program that helped companies involved with major wind, solar, nuclear and ethanol projects. At the time, the Energy Department said that it expected the combined projects to create about 60,000 jobs.

President Obama had visited Solyndra for a tour of the factor in May 2010, even as outside observers, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, were already raising doubts about the company's ability to survive.

Solyndra had another Obama connection in that it was backed by Tulsa billionaire George Kaiser, a key supporter of the president.

Also: Solyndra and the stimulus

Also: House GOP seeks probe of loan

-- Ronald D. White

Photo: FBI agent guards the Fremont, Calif., offices of Solyndra. Credit: Associated Press

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