* DOE says Solyndra should not overshadow loan program
* Republican lawmakers ask if Solyndra was tip of iceberg
* Company executives to appear before Congress next week
By Christopher Doering
WASHINGTON, Sept 14 The Obama Administration
has no intention of "walking away" from investing in renewable
energy projects despite the bankruptcy of a high-profile solar
panel maker backed by federal loan guarantees, a top U.S.
Energy Department official said on Wednesday.
The bankruptcy and ensuing criminal investigation into
California-based Solyndra LLC has sparked outrage over the
Obama administration's efforts to build a clean energy program
with loan guarantees and subsidies.
"While we are all disappointed in the outcome, securing
America's leadership in this vital new industry requires that
we support innovation and deployment," Jonathan Silver, who
heads the energy department's loan guarantee program, told a
hearing in the House of Representatives.
"I can't imagine a scenario in which we would willingly as
a country walk away from what would be undoubtedly one of the
largest if not the largest industries in the world over the
next several decades," he told a hearing called to probe the
Republicans said the collapse calls into question the
competency of the loan program and the ability of the
department to effectively distribute another $10 billion in
loan guarantees to green technology companies before a Sept. 30
"Was Solyndra just one bad bet by an administration rushing
to claim credit for the loan guarantee or is it the tip of the
iceberg?" asked Fred Upton, the chairman of the House Energy
and Commerce Committee."
"If the administration was so wrong about Solyndra after
nine months of due diligence how can it possibly exercise the
proper controls when doling out another $10 billion in the next
couple of weeks?" he asked.
President Barack Obama praised the company for its
technology during a visit to its manufacturing facility last
year, making the company a centerpiece of the administration's
efforts to stimulate the economy and create green jobs.
The California solar-panel maker, citing international
competitions, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last
week. FBI agents searched the company's offices two days later,
in a possible investigation over the rewarding of the federal
The U.S. Department of Energy's loan program for green
energy projects was created under the Bush Administration in
2005, but the first loan guarantee wasn't extended until four
years later when the loan office received funding under the
federal economic stimulus.
The solar-power panel maker received a $535 million federal
loan guarantee in 2009, the first awarded under the program to
support innovative green technologies.
Solyndra's top executives were invited to testify before
the subcommittee on Wednesday, but delayed their appearance
until next week.
Solyndra is the third U.S. solar firm to declare bankruptcy
in recent weeks. Tumbling prices on solar panels worldwide have
hit profits at industry heavyweights such as China's Suntech
Power Holdings Co Ltd STP.N and U.S.-based First Solar Inc
(FSLR.O) this year. Small, up-and-coming solar companies have
found it increasingly difficult to stay afloat. [nN1E77O11T]
(Additional reporting by Nichola Groom in Los Angeles;
Editing by Russell Blinch and David Gregorio)