A House of Representatives committee investigating failed solar company Solyndra released documents today indicating that the Energy Department sought to delay the announcement of the company's financial troubles until after the November 2010 election.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu is scheduled to testify tomorrow to the House Commerce and Energy Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Staff.
In preparation for Chu's appearance with investigators, the Republican-led subcommittee today released a history (click for PDF) of how Solyndra received a $535 million loan guarantee to build a factory but ran into financial troubles and eventually shut down and declared bankruptcy.
The document contains e-mail correspondence released by the White House that indicates Energy Department officials did not publicly discuss Solyndra's mounting financial problems, including pending layoffs around the time of the midterm election.
In one e-mail, part of a larger e-mail exchange between staff members at Argonaut Private Equity, a private investor in Solyndra, said that the DOE "did push very hard for us to hold our announcement of the consolidation to employees and vendors to Nov. 3--oddly they didn't give a reason for that date."
GOP House investigators are pushing to find out more about the process behind Solyndra receiving the loan guarantee. More specifically, investigators are seeking information on how a $75 million loan, given earlier in 2011, was restructured so that private investors would be paid back before the DOE in the case of default.
Although Solyndra did receive a very large loan guarantee, solar industry insiders had been questioning its business viability for well more than a year before it went bankrupt. The company made a specialized solar collector for commercial rooftops with cutting-edge technology, but the prices of flat solar photovoltaic panels have plummeted in the past three years, which contributed to its downfall.
The case has been seized upon by political opponents of the White House as an example of ineffective policies for creating jobs. The loan guarantee program, created in 2007, is designed to provide loans to bring new technologies to market, such as large renewable energy projects, battery factories, or nuclear plants.