By Stuart Pfeifer and Ronald D. White, Los Angeles Times
September 8, 2011, 7:05 p.m.

Federal agents executed a search warrant at the Northern California headquarters of solar panel manufacturer Solyndra Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection this week despite receiving $535 million in federal stimulus loan guarantees.

The FBI and Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General confirmed that their agents were involved in the raid Thursday at Solyndra’s offices in Fremont but declined to discuss what they were investigating. FBI spokesman Peter D. Lee said documents related to the search had been sealed.

Last week, Solyndra abruptly announced that it was ceasing operations and laying off 1,100 employees, a move the company attributed to intense foreign competition and a “global oversupply of solar panels.” The company filed for bankruptcy Tuesday.

Republicans have seized on Solyndra’s downfall as a sign that President Obama’s stimulus and “green jobs” campaign were failures. They have also noted that key Obama backer George Kaiser was a major investor in Solyndra, the first company to receive a Department of Energy loan guarantee to boost alternative energy companies. The program received additional funding under 2009’s federal economic stimulus effort.

“The FBI raid further underscores that Solyndra was a bad bet from the beginning and put taxpayers at unnecessary risk,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) chairman of its Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, said in a joint statement. “President Obama’s signature green jobs program went from a darling of the administration to bankruptcy to now the subject of an FBI raid in a matter of days.”

Solyndra spokesman Dave Miller said the federal raid came as a surprise but that the company was “fully cooperating” with investigators.

He said he did not know what the federal agents were looking for but speculated it could be related to the $535-million loan guarantee, of which the company drew $527 million.

A skeleton team of about 100 employees is still working at the factory during a “wind-down” process, Miller said.

The raid came about 16 months after Obama visited Solyndra and praised the federal government’s investments in clean energy and other sectors.

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