Solyndra’s welcome-Obama banner auctioned with laptops, t-shirts

Scott Logsdon paid $400 for the 30- foot banner that served as a backdrop when President Barack Obama visited Solyndra LLC in 2010. Matt Sertic snagged a digital projector for $1,300.

Others bid on laptops, T-shirts with Solyndra logos and environmental test chambers, the detritus of the solar-panel maker’s collapse after collecting $527 million in U.S. aid under loan guarantees from the Obama administration. More than 400 people attended the start yesterday of a two-day auction in a factory at the company’s idled Fremont, California, headquarters.

“That’s a piece of Americana right there — that was the banner that welcomed Obama,” said Logsdon, 47, a former Solyndra employee who is now a senior manager at a packaging company. “Solyndra, the new shape of solar” and “Made in the USA,” the blue wall-hanging said.

Solyndra, heralded by Obama on his visit as proof that “the promise of clean energy isn’t just an article of faith,” filed for bankruptcy protection on Sept. 6, days after shutting its operation and leaving 1,100 workers jobless. Its demise has sparked investigations by Congress, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and watchdogs at the Energy and Treasury departments.

The company blamed its troubles on a surge of cheap solar panels imported from China.

Auctioneer Ross Dove, managing partner of the San Diego- based firm Heritage Global Partners, called out bids at top speed. The items ranged from microwaves to a UV solar simulator once used in the production of Solyndra’s tube-shaped solar modules.

Core Assets

Solyndra’s core assets will be sold in an Nov. 18 auction supervised by Imperial Capital LLC, a Los Angeles-based investment bank, according to Solyndra.

The auction of miscellaneous items that continues today was in a Solyndra plant near a $733 million factory the company built with its federal aid. The new facility had robots that whistled Disney tunes to signal when they moved, spa-like showers with liquid-crystal displays of the water temperature and glass-walled conference rooms.

Gary Spaulding, a manufacturing director at a military contractor, came to the auction to bid as much as $5,000 each for two environmental test chambers that cost about $15,000 to $20,000 new.

“It was excessive spending,” Spaulding, 49, a Union City resident, said of Solyndra in an interview. “Look at all these buildings that they took over or built from scratch. In times like this, it’s a huge, excessive waste for not having a product that you can actually sell.”

‘Almost New’

Sertic, president of Applied Ceramics, a producer of ceramic components for the solar and semiconductor industry, placed the first winning bid yesterday, for the Mitsubishi digital projector. He also bought some flat-screen televisions, and planned to buy microscopes and furniture.

“You have equipment that is almost new and they’re selling it at a fraction of the price,” Sertic, 54, who lives in Milpitas, said in an interview.

Ayush Pandya, 19, a security guard from Milpitas, waited to bid on a 52-inch flat-screen television and a laptop.

“If you can find anything cheap, why not?” said Pandya, whose sister used to work at Solyndra.

John Comeau, owner of Santa Clara-based Vivid Inc., a former Solyndra vendor, said he planned to spend about $10,000 to buy test and environmental equipment.

“They wasted a lot of money,” Comeau, 50, a Los Gatos resident, said. “Some of the equipment we’re looking at buying, they probably used three or four times a month, which is outrageous. They could have subbed it out to someone else for one-tenth the price.”

“Look at the building, it’s ridiculous,” Comeau said in an interview at the start of the auction. “They didn’t need it.”