Solyndra Insider: WaPo is full of crap!

Bruce Krasting's picture

I've had numerous email exchanges with a former Solyndra employee. I wrote about this on 9/19.

The Washington Post has an article out that suggests that a portion of the government’s $535mm loan was wasted in the final few months of the company’s existence. The article quotes a different former employee, Peter M. Kohlstadt. WaPo also makes reference to “$344mm” as a number relating to the cost/value of the manufacturing facility built by Sol (Fab2).

I contacted my guy and asked for clarification between his version of events and those described by WaPo. His words:
On where the DOE money went


As far as I know, 100% of the DOE loan went to the construction and development of making the bare field that existed into a working, functioning 200+ Mw solar facility.

The price tag for transforming the bare, empty field into the 200+ Mw solar facility was 775+ million dollars; 535 million slated from the DOE + a series of big equity rounds at the same time or a some a little later.

Who put up the money to build Fab2?


The "money" for the full cost of Fab 2 was:
535 million DOE loan;
240+ million from preferred stock equity/convertible note to pref.


If you look at the press releases of Solyndra, right at the time of loan announcement, Solyndra announced one such round.


From Sol 3/20/09 press release:

The guaranteed loan, expected to provide debt financing for approximately 73% of the project costs, will allow Solyndra to initiate construction of a second solar panel fabrication facility (Fab 2) in California


Remember, a fab is highly sophisticated, highly modern integrated mfg facility. The cost to transform a shell building to such a facility is huge.

Note: Fab2 was completed. It came in slightly under plan. When it was completed it produced panels. It met the design specifications.

The DOE loan was fully funded for more than nine months before Sol went BK on 9/6. All of the loan proceeds were spent on the construction of Fab2. It’s not possible that any money spent by the company in the final months were related to the DOE financing.
Think of the construction of Fab2 as a commercial real estate deal. There was 25%+ equity to debt. That is not at all unreasonable. When the plant was completed, the DOE had a first lien on an operating, state of the art facility. There was a “tenant” (SOL) that would use this factory. The thinking was that there would be a profit from the sales of panels. That would pay for the factory.

Of course that did not happen. Global prices for solar panels collapsed. Classic supply and demand was influenced by excess investment in production capacity by virtually all industrial country's governments. Even SOL's new plant could not make a buck in that environment.

On WaPo’s article in general


The story is laughable. I love how they use "research engineers" as guides to sales, and whether monies were being used properly. Money was spent fast, we had sharp market windows to catch. Welcome to the real world, research engineers. Second, I believe one of them has a very serious "bee in his bonnet", as I know that Kohlstadt (one of the named engineer sources) filed suit over the layoff within a day of the layoffs.

More on the WaPo

Note: The WaPo article was critical of a contract that was awarded by SOL to VDL (Dutch company). The following is a discussion of the role that VDL played. This is “wonkish” (and snarky) engineering talk. I provide it to give some credibility to the source. You can’t make this stuff up.

Yes, VDL was brought in with "loan in hand". The predicate for the tool was not loan in hand, it was the fact that the tool was targeted at the most time consuming portion of the assembly.


Each tube was placed into another, "stuff" was placed inside, an optical and protective fluid was placed into the tube, the contacts were made between the inner tube and the outer contact, and the outer seals were hermetically sealed. And, the unit was subject to about 4 individual tests in this process. Each of these steps was performed at an individual station with associated time delay in between. The simple reason was that *no one* had ever made this form factor before and we had to design each step of the process (and each specialized tool to do the function.....)


So yes, we contracted with VDL to build a highly automated machine to collapse all these steps into one. The reason: feed the machine the inner tube PV device, the outer sealer tube, the special "stuff" for the inside, the optical coupling fluid, and the end contacts, you press one button and blammo, presto at the other end you get a complete module and with far more efficiencies than a series of steps on individual machines


So the term "the company had never built that kind of equipment" should actually be read as "no one in the blimey world had ever built that type of equipment"...... and it is a bare sentence with no conclusion. Just lets you do the self-insinuation crap that passes for journalism these days.

My posts with the information from this Solyndra source have not been popular with readers. I’ve introduced this person to individuals in the MSM. They don’t like his story either. There is no smoking gun. Sorry.

Solyndra (and all the other FFB/DOE energy loans) are a policy failure by the administration. They should never have been providing debt capital for Silicon Valley start ups. That is a private sector function. FAB2 should not have been built. DOE should never have provided the financing. But they did, and the factory was built according to plan. SOL was a disaster for everyone involved. But it was not a scam.


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IndyPat's picture

Deepthroat says...So the term "the company had never built that kind of equipment" should actually be read as "no one in the blimey world had ever built that type of equipment"...... and it is a bare sentence with no conclusion. Just lets you do the self-insinuation crap that passes for journalism these days.
I say...
Nope, missed the big point and it should be read as "no one in the blimey world should ever, ever hired your sad ass, built this building and built that fuckin' equipment in the first place, you snotty, pointed-headed fool, because the market is total shit for the widget it produces!"

Now, that sounds a bit closer to the point.

Engineers should have much more Econ in their diets before they get evera degree or job. Ditto for Econ majors, too, I guess.

Bruces' source didn't mention what bloomburgs maintenance source at the FAB said about them pitching defective cells like they were beer cans at a frat mixer and that nobody seemed too bothered by it or took a moment to tweak up their wonderful machine that was dorking them up all over the place, it would seem.

Or maybe I just self- insuate too much.....but WaPo and Deepthro can piss up a rope, for all I care. There had just better be a long perp walk in orange jumpsuits at the end of this saga or this whole system is rotten lawless beyond repair and it's time to fix bayonets.

rtalcott's picture

Possibly this was not a scam by some strict legal definition BUT these guys never came close to doing anything that was economically feasible and my guess is that if you looked at the product cost models you would see lots of hopium built in...and yes...part of the pitch was the tax deduction for the new roof since it's part of the solar installation...but you can do that much cheaper with Sanyo BiFacial modules...


Either the people running this organization (and raising money) were braindead or at some point early on it became a scam...maybe a bit of Hitler In The Bunker here and that is not all that uncommon either...

overmedicatedundersexed's picture

bruce, this last sentence and the no smoking gun statement  are out of character and an insult to the reader:

But they did, and the factory was built according to plan. SOL was a disaster for everyone involved. But it was not a scam."

that is what ZH's see as the stink on the skunk. 

rtalcott's picture

Note: Fab2 was completed. It came in slightly under plan. When it was completed it produced panels. It met the design specifications.


OK Bruce...exactly what were those specs?  Many times it's not what you might think it is...if the process isn't nailed down yet (doubtful it was here) those specs may be nothing more than modules/ assembly rate...says nothing about it all being junk...and don't tell me that this does not happen because I've seen it more than once...

IndyPat's picture

I'll tell ya what a few of the specs were, from Bloomburg...and they got much much closer to where the bear shit in the buckwheat than Bruce's CYA Deepthroat.


-Gotta be a New Building (we don't want Sun Micro's old shit down the road, nevermind that its is just shy of the 300,000 sqft of FAB2

-Bitchin showers with LED's

-Zen garden out back, so as to have a calm place to dream up bigger ways to cornhole taxpayers

-Fucking Robots, gotta have the fucking robots, dude! And the robots whistle Disney tunes! Shit you not.

- Big finish here (Bruce, how the fuck did you miss this one?)

3,000 Shitheel Union Fucks to FAB it all 2gether!

Read that last line again. Shovel ready, brothers and sisters! Yesserie!

Neat, huh?

This ain't over. Bruce, you might be done with it, but there is a whole universe of (shovel ready) horseshit left to uncover if anyone in the media or law enforcement were so inclined. Whether they are or not is a larger and more disturbing question.

malek's picture

So Bruce, you say the Fab2 was completed and it produced PV panels or tubes according to specifications. Assuming those specs were tight, one has to wonder: How far off break-even were production costs for a panel?
And why didn't Solyndra get a bailout? Because there is no large number of retirees dependent on their continued existence??

And will Fab2 now be handed over to the investors, effectively forgiving the $500 million DOE loan.
With the biggest part of the loan wiped clean, maybe the Fab will finally be able to produce a profit to those investors. (/sarc)

eftian's picture

A conspiracy theorist might think maybe bruce has had a visit..

Young Buckethead's picture


Your original reporting on this issue preceeded the national attention given it by some time. Hat's off to you.

However, since you have developed your "insider" source, you are only giving one side, which apparently is that nothing wrong took place.

While many examples of Federal contracts being let to private corporations for "questionable" goals have always existed, the reordering of debtor priorities, and the siphoning off of prime assets to Kaiser, before the taxpayer sees a dime of recovery, as blatant as it is, is a new one to me.

In order to maintain your credibility, you should include "On the other hand, facts show . . ." and continue your original in-depth investigation of the financial transactions, which is where the truth will eventually be found.

Otherwise, you risk the label of "co-opted".

Printfaster's picture

Are you really Leo in those shirtsleeves?


Absalon's picture

The whole point of programs like the DOE program is that it is funding something high risk that cannot get money from the private sector.


Now I think that explicit subsidies for production are a bad idea everywhere everytime (hello ethanol) but the stakes in solar energy are huge in every way and if there is some place where it makes sense for government to put money into industry, this is probably it.  I do not see the Republicans shutting down the ethanol subidies or the agricultural subsidies.

rtalcott's picture

From people I know who had the opportunity to visit Solyndra it was clear that it was a train wreck 2 maybe 3 years ago...I thought they would go bust last year...I made that prediction BEFORE the DOE loan happened...this is really very typical OTHER than the large DOE loan...I've seen it many times...same stuff keeps happening but typically it's with OPM via VCs....

Race Car Driver's picture

Weren't you the same guy who was just recently sniveling about the fate of an illegal alien you were supporting? And now you seem to be blowing fog on what appears to be a cozy little scam for the administration and its buddies - and we're supposed to believe you're 'conflicted'?

At best, you're apparently guided by emotion and your scruples are corrupted.  At worst, you're just dirty.

I think your cred is about zero and motivations questionable.

Hurdy Gurdy Man's picture

I see the dark side of nascient talent struggling to see daylight!  Write something!  Dazzle us!

rtalcott's picture

I don't believe the WaPo but I don't believe this guy either and I have a few decades of experience in high tech startups and have seen LOTS of cash flushed...even if there is no criminal cause of action here gotta wonder about civil.


edit: typo

eftian's picture

Just watched the hearing where they never answered 1 question and pleaded the fifth to everything, and everyone was oh so concerned and had so much respect for their 5th amendment, sure these losers get the bill of rights while our 4th amendment gets shit on everyday in airports across the country, our 1st amendment abused with their "free speech zones", 2nd amendment subject to countless gun grabs,ect, but thier 5th amendment is so important..fuck em waterboard their asses, oh, I forgot , thier connected..

LauraB's picture


I really appreciate your work on this and enjoy your articles.  But I have to disagree with you here.

Where in the Constitution does it say that the goverment can take taxpayer money to invest in private enterprise?  (don't even think about saying the general welfare clause; and, yes, I believe there should be no government subsidies for ANY business or individual (e.g. energy, farmers, mortgage tax credits) as they are really just redistribution schemes to bilk the taxpayers while buying votes for politicians.)

This "investment" by the administration was not only illegal as they had no authority to do it under the Constitution, but it was also a scam.  From what I've read, it appears that: 1.) the "loan" was made to a company (Solyndra) in which one of Obama's bundlers (who made several visits to the White House) was heavily invested; 2.) it was known at the time  that the "loan" was made that the company was likely to fail; 3.) the taxpayer "loan" was then subordinated to those other investors (including those of the bundler's trust); 4.) because the taxpayers' interests were subordinated, they would take the hit while the other investors are made whole for their "investments" first in bankruptcy; 5.) Solyndra was able to spin-off another shell company to buy up the assets (expensive factory and equipment) that had been paid for by the taxpayers for pennies on the dollar; and 6) the new company would be able to make money for the bundler's "trust" and other investors since it would have very low start up costs since the major expenses were already paid by the taxpayers.

I put the word "loan" in quotes because it was really a gift of taxpayer money to a major Obama supporter since it was known that the company would fail and the "loan" was subordinated to those of the other investors.  The other investors would be made whole in bankruptcy first and then make money through the new company for which they paid very little thanks to the US taxpayers.


Bruce Krasting's picture

The Constitution may not cover this. But Congress did. The laws that allowed Obama to make these loans was passed in 2005. Obama just jumped through the hoop.

I, like you, think this never should have happened. I think the consequence of the SOL mess is that it going to come to an end.

newbee's picture

Write it Bruce - who else will???  There is no "scam" other than the fact that this mess simply confirms that free markets are the masters for selecting winners from losers - NOT big Government.  This story should be used as the poster child for all the rest of the "Green Movement" technologies and who wins out in the end.  Free markets need to be on the cutting edge of who / what wins, not big brother.

aerial view's picture

Convert the solar facility into low income housing with utilities provided by the unprofitable solar panels-this will get Obla blah more votes.

Bruce Krasting's picture

To readers:

Numerous comments on the quality of this info and the fact that it comes from an ANON source. I wrote this comment (below) to one of those who made this point. I open this up for all to contribute. I truly would like your input:

I can't argue with you. I have tried (as have others in the MSM) to get this guy to actually come forward. That's not happening.

I have done everything that I can to confirm this fellow as an actual insider who has real info to share. I have thought about this long and hard. I actually do care about journalistic standards.

You are correct. Everyone in this story has an ulterior motive. This individual included.

The fact is, no one in media has any legitimate contact with SOL insiders other than me. So I'm out on a limb with this.

Just a question for you:

If I have further contact that sheds more light on the story, should I write about it?

I would be interested in any and all comments on this. I have to admit that I am conflicted. So input would be appreciated.

Bruce Krasting

lewy14's picture

Bruce, by all means, keep at it - the source is just one datapoint though.

Megan McArdle has cited your work in her Atlantic blog. The last piece from her I read had some financials which explained why they thought scaling up made sense, in fact it would be the only way they could generate a decent return.

I'd be damned interested to see how your insider's story squares with her analysis.

One thing - even if your source is 100% correct in what he asserts... there is the matter of the final $75M loan from Argonaut which subordinated the DoE-guaranteed loan.

Reasonable people may differ in what constitutes a "scam" but that last little round smells pretty rancid to me. Just how did that go down? If there is a scam it may have been on that end.

I think you and McMegan should write a book, actually.

rtalcott's picture

You need to develop more contacts...try talking to their suppliers...materials and equipment...they are inside quite a bit and really see more than people realize.

DeadFred's picture

Write about it. Even if the guy is using you you can never reach the 'tool standard' of the MSM. Just report the facts. The facts are some guy is saying some things and this is what he's saying. We get to use our truth detectors to decide yea or nay about what he's saying.

malek's picture

Agree with Fred. Plus for sure tell us what your truth detector tells you, Bruce. Keep up the awesome work!

anony's picture

Waiiittttt aminute.....

The 700MM went into the constuction of the plant?? That's all you have to say about it???

Either put those building and construction costs under a microscope or go home.

WHO owned the land?  How much were they paid?? Who got the construction contacts?  How much did the owners and managers take for themselves in salaries, benefits, perks, and expenses?

Without knowing precisely where every cent of the $535,000,000 went and how it got there (bid or no bid contracts, sweetheart deals for Bamster contributors) that point about your source saying it's ALL IN CONSTRUCTION cost, is useless.

The smoke from this deal is so thick you couldn't (or won't) cut it with a chain saw.


IndyPat's picture

Hells to the yeah, Aony!

Your BS detector scooped Bruce and Bloomburg by about a week!

You missed your calling. Bloodhounds pale in comparison.

Singing ROBOTS that give happy endings. (ok, i made up one of the things these robots do, can you guess which one? Tough, isn't it?) go read the story, I'm not telling.

Proudly and I'm so sure, cost effectively built by 3000 Union twats.! Yipppy! WinWin.

Negelecting to make use of existing suitible facilities so they can build the truely 2 FABulous new construction.

You nailed it, Anony.

What I can't wait for is the next tenet of FAB2

I bet 500 mil of someones elses money it becomes the FEDs new listening outpost survail facility, and that'd be a better bet than the DOE took on our dime. Gotta make sure we aren't saying anything bad about them..things like, hot death you fucking traitor keynesian scumbags...stuff like that. FAB2 becomes FED2....

Dr. Engali's picture

You are wrong Bruce. It was a scam. It was a sam because there was no market for their product. The administration got into funneling funds for a company( that contributed heavily to his campaign)  with public money taken from tax payers. That makes it a scam. If there was a market for their product private money would have made money available.

DeadFred's picture

Thanks for the research Bruce even if it doesn't fit the mold we had in mind. Truth is good. This looks like just another example of the pitfalls of social engineering. 

Jim B's picture

+1 Crony Criminalism! 

newbee's picture

So what it sounds like to me is we've simply stimulated our economy similar to China's model!  Bruce, hat's off to you for all the effort on this stuff and bringing what you have / know to the rest of us on ZH.

curmudgery's picture

Failure of due diligence.  Happens all the time in the private sector, why would anyone expect government dabblers to do better?  Solyndra tech never delivered in practice what it promised in theory.  Money jumped the gun and went down the toilet.  Crucifying the execs is a waste of time sideshow.  the spotlight should be on what due dil was (and wasn't) done.

Bartanist's picture

Lots of start-ups fail and generally it is for lack of cash. While I hate the VC/Investor mentality that we need to scale at "Google rate" to be successful (who gives a damn whether it makes any logical sense) the only things that really bothers me are that the administration gave up its financial rights to a private campaign donating investor and Solyndra assets were bought by Solyndra II without first going through chapter 11. This smacks of insider dealing and an intent to defraud the government out of a well meaning investment (like who on Main Street wouldn't want clean energy for all and higher employment, right?)

Oh yeah ... and IMO, the ToTUS is an empty suit who thinks he is a big deal... he makes Blago look like a boyscout.

Smiddywesson's picture

Maybe so Bruce, but don't forget:

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

CH1's picture

And the boss takes the 5th! That IS evidence of wrong-doing somewhere.

GeezerGeek's picture

I am so glad I wasn't drinking coffee when the Democrats lied about how much they support the Constitution. Waxman in particular was amazing in his own way. Not that RINOs are any better, but still...

Anonymouse's picture

Not taking sides.  But someone taking the 5th in front of Congress doesn't surprise me, and doesn't necessarily imply guilt.  It's all a reality TV show anyway.  Their goal is rarely a search for truth, but to score political points.

john39's picture

not necessarily.  any decent lawyer would know that the gov is searching for scapegoats here.  best to keep your mouth shut if you were involved....  because what the gov can't find in the way of evidence, it will likely create.

LowProfile's picture

Ding ding ding ding we have a winnah

Carpathia's picture

Bruce, I'll assume that your source is accurate and all the DOE money went to construct the plant. The corruption concerns who now has first claim on this building as an asset. The US taxpayers should be first in line. Wasn't the order of senior preferred claimants recently modified so that Obama's crony was moved ahead of the US taxpayer? This is what was corrupt and illegal.

Mad Max's picture

I'm finding this series of stories very interesting Bruce - keep up the good work.

adr's picture

There are a lot of honest people working at dishonest corporations. The sales manager might be doing his job trying to get orders. Engineers were designing panels. Those people might still think everything was legit with the corporation because it was their job and now its gone. They won't want to believe management used them to run a scam.

If you know your company is failing and your business model won't work, and you get half a billion from the government to continue operations when it is doomed to fail, its a scam.

What Solyndra did was to take government money to purchase large amounts of equipment they didnt have money for so they could bankrupt the company and sell the equipment to another corporation they created for pennies on the dollar. They could then use the equipment for another solar venture without needing hundres of milions for startupcosts or just sell the equipment for a tidy profit.

It was just like the junk bond takeover scams of the 80s. If Solyndra could have kept itself running for another year I wonder if the IPO would have happened. It sure looks like they couldn't run a stock scam on investors so they just turned to the government instead.

Crime of the Century's picture

Bruce - try to make absolutely sure that you are not feeling a little bit flattered that Deep Throat chose you. I am with the others in believing that it is much too soon to forensically declare that there is no scam.  

SheepDog-One's picture

Solyndra is about favoritism directly from the top of govt to some startup green youve jumped the tracks and are looking to see if theres any corruption within the company instead? You know what this issue is about Bruce....if its all so innocent then why are the Solyndra execs taking the 5th? Total BS.

apberusdisvet's picture

The majority of those of us who actually try to be independent thinkers know that WAPO regurgitates the daily WH talking point memos on an uber-partisan basis.  Really no different than the NYT or the alphabet networks.

I commend BK for trying to do some investigative journalism but his biases may be showing when he concludes that the manufacturing process was doomed to failure and that there was nothing untoward or illegal about the whole process.

Just the fact that all the money went to support an investment of a key campaign bundler is all I need to know.  Whether R or D is involved is immaterial, but if the Prez was a Republican, impeachment hearings with a Special Prosecutor would already be on the table.

rwe2late's picture

Your contention that (unlike Democrats) Republican politicians/presidents are prosecuted/impeached for their violations of law is blatantly false and ridiculous.

BOTH Dems and Repubs are corrupted servants of criminal enterprises.


SwingForce's picture

So what? You did great work Bruce, MSM will spin it somehow, but you tell it like it is. Keep up the good work, I don't think this story is over yet.

SheepDog-One's picture

Solyndra as crooked as it all is, pales in comparison to the real story out there Op Fast and Furious gun sales to Mexican drug cartels, already linked to murder of border patrol and many murders in Mexico.

john39's picture

or worse, why is the U.S. military protecting the drug trade in Afghanistan?  why did the U.S. destroy Libya? and on and on...   I guess the real question is, why can't the american public see that the U.S. government is part of a fascist plot to control the entire world through any and all means available?

LetThemEatRand's picture

Because most of the sheep focus on what the other "team" is doing, rather than realizing that both teams are equally corrupt and intent on world domination.  Divide and conquer, baby.