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Solyndra Founder Gronet ‘Appalled’ by Loan Delay, E-Mails Show

Solyndra CEO Chris Gronet
Chris Gronet, founder and chief executive officer of solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra Inc. Photographer: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg

Sept. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Solyndra LLC’s founder, seeking $535 million in U.S. loan guarantees, said he was appalled when the Bush administration delayed action on aid to the solar-panel manufacturer.

“Many people worked through the holidays to make sure we were doing our part to stay on track,” Chris Gronet said in a post-midnight e-mail to an Energy Department official on Jan. 12, 2009. Gronet, who was also the company’s chief executive officer, spurned an apology from an Energy Department official.

The collapse of Solyndra has brought criticism by Republican lawmakers of President Barack Obama, whose administration eventually approved the guarantees. Solyndra filed for bankruptcy protection on Sept. 6. E-mails released by the Energy Department today, showing Gronet as an unhappy applicant, documented that the guarantee was delayed although not rejected under Republican President George W. Bush.

“I was appalled to learn on Friday that our application is being delayed yet again,” Gronet wrote in the 2009 e-mail to Steve Isakowitz, the Energy Department’s chief financial officer.

Isakowitz responded, telling Gronet the department was “highly motivated to move expeditiously,” while making certain it gave sufficient review of the application by Solyndra, the Fremont, California-based maker of a cylindrical solar-power device.

In a second e-mail later that day, Gronet said he was on the phone with David Frantz, director of the Energy Department loan program under Bush.

“I find the response completely unacceptable,” Gronet wrote. “An apology from David is not enough.”

Rules ‘Keep Changing’

The rules and conditions of the loan “keep changing,” Gronet wrote. “The impact on Solyndra is severe.”

A credit committee evaluating Solyndra’s application in the final days of the Bush administration returned the proposal to the Energy Department’s loan programs office for further review, saying that while the project “appears to have merit” the “apparent haste in recommending” funding left some questions unanswered.

The credit committee asked for an independent market analysis. It endorsed the application two months later, during the Obama administration, after that analysis was completed. The loan guarantee was awarded in September 2009.

Gronet, who founded Solyndra in 2005, was replaced as CEO by Brian Harrison, a veteran of Intel Corp., in July 2010. Gronet remained chairman until Aug. 19, when Solyndra announced his departure, 12 days before it halted operations on Aug. 31.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jim Snyder in Washington at jsnyder24@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net

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