Obama Visits Solar Cell Facility

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC Bay Area

    President Barack Obama was impressed with what he saw at Fremont's Solyndra Inc. solar cell manufacturing plant Wednesday.
         
    He shook hands of Solyndra workers then went on a tour of the facility with the company CEO Chris Gronet. It turned into a bit of a workout when he and Gronet lifted up a 60-pound solar panel primarily intended for the commercial rooftop solar market.

    "This is impressive. It really is." Obama said during his tour of the plant.

    Obama also gave props to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, who's also running for California attorney general. Later, he and Schwarzenegger had a brief private meeting together.

    About 200 protesters were visible from the sidewalk. They were protesting everything from immigration to offshore drilling to the state's budget cuts.

    Obama Speaks at Solyndra

    [BAY] Obama Speaks at Solyndra
    President Barack Obama praised the Solyndra solar cell facility and workers during a visit to the Fremont plant.

    The visit was Obama's final stop in the Bay Are for a whirlwind fundraising trip to benefit Senator Barbara Boxer's re-election campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

    With the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico calling into question his plans to expand offshore drilling, Obama was looking to highlight the benefits of alternative energy sources during his quick trip to the Bay Area. He called the Gulf oil spill "heartbreaking" and underscored his administration's aim to find cleaner energy sources.

    He also talked to workers about how expanding the clean energy sector can create jobs and aid the nation's economic recovery.

    Solyndra is currently in the midst of a massive expansion project which was made possible by a federal loan program. The White House says it's one of the most successful investments made as part of the president's $826 billion economic stimulus. The company received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Energy Department last year to help build the new manufacturing plant, a project that now employs 1,000 workers. The company estimates the construction project could create up to 3,000 jobs total, and as many as 1,000 permanent jobs when the 300,000-square foot facility opens up.

    At the Solyndra plant, the president reaffirmed his earlier assertions that the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico only reinforces the need to find alternatives to oil.

    Some Fremont residents were amused that Obama's motorcade would have to drive on one of the Bay Area's most pothole-ridden streets on his way to Solyndra. Kato Road recently made Mercury News columnist Mr. Roadshow's list of the 10 worst streets.  The city can't afford to repave the overly bumpy road -- not even for the president's limousine. Turns out the president didn't have to deal with the bumpy ride -- he arrived at the plant aboard a helicopter.

    Obama travels to the Gulf region Friday, where he will assess the efforts to stop the massive oil flow.