There are two potential bidders for the Solyndra solar factory carcass according to Bloomberg, quoting the firm's CFO.
We contacted Solyndra, and a spokesperson said that the company "can verify several interested parties, [but are] not sure we can characterize them as bidders at this point in time."
The Fremont, California-based CIGS thin film photovoltaic manufacturer, which suspended operations last week,
makes made one of the world’s most unusual and controversial solar panels: a tube-shaped module coated with copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells mounted on relatively inexpensive aluminum frames. While the design arguably has some advantages in terms of inexpensive installation and lighter weight, the modules remain more expensive than conventional crystalline silicon solar panels.
Would other solar manufacturers -- or large IT companies like Samsung that are moving into solar -- want to buy all or part of the company? Will they use the DOE to assist them in the due diligence process?
The Bloomberg article says that "one bidder will come to the company’s Fremont, California factory and headquarters next week." The article adds that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath "gave Solyndra interim permission to borrow as much as $4 million and spend about $3 million in cash to pay a warehouse debt while it seeks a buyer." Under the Energy Department loan, the “assets have to be used and operated in the U.S.,” Troy said. The company owed lenders $783.8 million, including $527.8 million to the U.S. government, and held assets valued at $859 million as of January 1, according to court papers."
It will be a tough sell, according to Shyam Mehta, senior solar analyst at GTM Research. Solyndra’s panels cost $2 a watt to produce. Chinese crystalline solar module makers currently can produce modules for $1.10 a watt and the price continues to go down. Modules on the spot market currently sell for $1.15 to $1.20 per watt.
Even if one factors in Solyndra’s touted lower installation costs, the price delta is likely too big.
“They [Solyndra] are still selling modules at below market prices to generate sales,” he said.
The factory also won’t have much value for other manufacturers.
“The lasers, the furnaces -- everything is custom built. Unless you want to make the same form factor, you have to rip everything out,” said Alain Harrus, a partner at Crosslink Capital. “The factory is absolutely beautiful. The problem is that the costs of manufacturing are too high. They got caught by China Inc.”
I would take issue with the "China Inc." remark. Solyndra got caught by a poor design, hubris, and denial.
Any potential acquirer would also inherit a titanic-sized bookkeeping and public relations headache. Solyndra has received more than $1 billion from VC partners and over $535 million in loan guarantees from the Department of Energy. Congressional opponents of green policies like Michigan Congressional Representative Fred Upton regularly hold up Solyndra as an example of why the U.S. shouldn’t support green energy policies.
The only green jobs that have been created, one wag told us, have been ones for accountants and bankruptcy attorneys.