SunPower Corp., a San Jose-based solar power company that received a last-minute Department of Energy loan in September, announced today that it lost more than $370 million in its fiscal third quarter — more than double its second-quarter loss — and that its chief financial officer would resign.
The company said it also would likely lose money in its fourth quarter and would embark on a “reorganization” that would lead to job cuts.
SunPower plans to build a 250-megawatt solar plant called California Valley Solar Ranch in eastern San Luis Obispo County. It has started construction.
Dennis Arriola, SunPower's CFO, will resign in March, the company announced on a conference call for investors and analysts. Another executive, Jim Pape, who runs the company's residential and commercial businesses, will leave this month.
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Earlier today, the company's stock fell nearly 7 percent in NASDAQ trading before the third-quarter results were announced. The stock has dropped more than 50 percent since August.
“We are reorganizing the company to a regional business focus, a products group with product line profit and loss responsibility, and we will extend the responsibility of our upstream group to incorporate the research and development of our world-leading efficiency solar cell and panels,” SunPower CEO Tom Werner said on today's call.
SunPower, which has teamed up with NRG Energy of Princeton, N.J., to build the solar power plant in San Luis Obispo, got a $1.2 billion loan from the Department of Energy on Sept. 30, the last day of the department’s loan guarantee program. Just a month earlier, SunPower announced a $150 million loss in its second quarter, after losing about $2 million in its first quarter. The company has now lost $523 million for the year.
Today's announcement likely will intensify criticism of the Department of Energy loan program, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of loaning money to alternative energy companies with poor financial track records.
House Republicans pounced on the loan program after Fremont-based Solyndra, which got $535 million in federal loans in September 2009, filed for bankruptcy less than two years later, shutting its doors and laying off more than 1,100 workers. President Barack Obama visited Solyndra in May 2010, praising the company.
Solyndra's biggest investor, Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser, bundled more than $50,000 in campaign contributions for Obama's 2008 campaign, prompting Republicans to accuse the administration of showing political favoritism in approving Solyndra's loan. The Obama administration has denied that Solyndra received preferential treatment.
The FBI raided Solyndra headquarters in early September, and during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing into the loan guarantees, the company's top executives refused to testify, citing their Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination.
Late last month, Massachusetts-based Beacon Power Corp., another clean energy company that was loaned $43 million by the Department of Energy, also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
California clean energy companies received more than $4.5 billion in the last days of the department’s loan program. While the department claimed that all loans were made on the companies’ merits, a California Watch investigation showed half of the first 10 loans were made without full vetting of the companies’ financials. Jonathan Silver, who leads the Department of Energy loan program, announced his resignation last month.
The White House announced last month that it would conduct an independent review of all $36 billion in loans the department made under the loan program.
California Watch is a project of the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting. For more, visit californiawatch.org.