Solyndra said Friday it has received a loan guarantee offer from the U.S. Department of Energy to borrow $535 million for building a new factory.

The Fremont, Calif.-based startup, which makes thin-film solar panels, said it plans to use the loan guarantee to get the money from the U.S. Department of Treasury's Federal Financing Bank. The loan guarantee is coming from the federal Department of Energy, which has has to make sure Solyndra meets certain conditions before closing the deal. 

Solyndra made a splash last fall when it emerged from stealth mode to unveil its unusual technology (see Solyndra Rolls Out Tube-Shaped Thin Film). Each of its solar panels is made up of 40 glass cylinders lined with solar cells, which make use of copper, indium, gallium and selenium (CIGS) to convert sunlight into electricity.

Most of the solar panels on the market today have a flat surface and use crystalline silicon as the key ingredient. Those panels are different than thin-film panels, which make use of a thinner layer of silicon or other types of materials for power production. Thin-film companies say they can make panels cheaper, though their panels aren't able to convert sunlight as effectively as crystalline silicon panels.

Solyndra has a factory at its headquarters for producing the solar cell-lined tubes, and a second factory in nearby Milpitas for assembling all the components into solar panels.

With at least $1.52 billion in announced sales deals, Solyndra needs to boost its production in order to fulfill its contracts. The company said it started shipping last July, and it was reportedly trying to raise $350 million last year but didn't get the full amount.

The company has been planning to build a new factory that would be able make all the equipment and assemble the panels. The federal loan will allow Solyndra to start the construction of this new factory, which is expected to have the capacity to make 500 megawatts of solar panels per year. The company said the loan should make up 73 percent of the project costs.

Solyndra expects to start construction of the factory by the end of the year, and to start producing panels at the end of 2010 or early 2011, said Mike Grunow, a company spokesman.

The new factory construction could provide jobs to about 3,000 people, Solyndra said. The company also expects to hire more than 1,000 people to run the factory.

The company is on a short list of companies applying for loan guarantees from a DOE program that was created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. DOE said Solyndra is the first one on the list of 16 applicants to get the loan guarantee.


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Tags: cigs, doe, solyndra