Solyndra first to get federal money

March 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
There is a sweet sound of success at Fremont-based Solyndra. The company just learned the federal government is loaning the solar panel maker $535 million to expand and build another plant in Fremont.

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"We're well aligned with the goals of the administration," said Ben Bierman, from Solyndra.

That's why Solyndra execs think they're the first to receive the Department of Energy's loan, which they applied for nearly three years ago. The feds' program also uses stimulus dollars to push green technology and job creation.

"With the Obama Administration's focus on creating jobs and promoting renewable energy, suddenly things really took off in the last two months," said Bierman.

Solyndra will break ground here in the fall. That's when 3,000 construction jobs will be created. It'll take about a year to build the plant and after that, the company will hire 1,000 full time employees.

"Its' just a great day," said Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman.

More jobs are coming, just in time, according to Fremont's mayor. The Fremont-Hayward-Oakland region's unemployment rate rose to 9.6-percent in February.

"With this improvement that will certainly take some of the sting out of that," said Wasserman.

But the help didn't come quickly enough for Hayward based, OptiSolar. The solar panel manufacturer applied for the same federal loan, but still hasn't heard back. Since January, the company has laidoff 500 of its 600 employees and just suspended operations.

That's something the government is betting won't happen to Solyndra. It has nearly a half billion dollars riding on it.

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