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Attorneys for Solyndra did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Obama administration officials say the decision to give Solyndra a loan guarantee was not political. They say cheap imports from China, the collapse of the European market for solar panels and other economic changes doomed the California firm.

In a party-line vote Friday, House Republicans pushed through legislation that would phase out federal loan guarantees such as the one Solyndra received. Democrats call the “No More Solyndras Act” an election-year stunt. The bill has no chance of advancing in the Democratic-led Senate.

Last week, a federal bankruptcy judge cleared the way for creditors to begin voting on a proposed reorganization plan for Solyndra. The government is expected to recover little, if any, of its investment.

But while the company failed to draw enough interest to stay open, the grotto so far has been a success, attracting visitors such as Oakland retiree Jean Richardson.

“It’s beautiful,” Richardson said after stepping out of the shed.

“I was fascinated by how the light came through the tubes from the outside sunlight,” she added.

The tubes came courtesy of JIT Transportation, a San Jose company that had a contract with Solyndra to store and deliver 8 million of them to a manufacturing plant.

But Solyndra went under before JIT hauled a single rod or received any payments, said Gene Ashley, the company’s president.

The bankruptcy judge said the solar firm no longer wanted the tubes, and JIT was left with the job of getting rid of them.

“We kind of got stuck holding the bag,” Ashley said.

“Bad deals happen, but this one was a really bad deal for a lot of people,” he said. “Guys like us just get left out in the cold.”

Ashley had trouble finding local recyclers willing to take the tubes because they were made of an unusual glass. He found some out-of-state companies that accepted them, but still had hundreds of thousands of the 1-inch diameter rods taking up space in his warehouse.

So Ashley decided he’d offered them free to artists, including one who used them to make a chandelier.

When Rael and San Frantello saw the tubes, they were amazed by how they glowed. They stuck them through a cardboard box and came up with the idea for the SOL Grotto. They now hope to build a similar project on a larger scale.

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