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Rael and San Frantello still have thousands of rods left over, but depending on how big they want to go, Ashley could probably help them out again _ he still has a mountain of about 700,000 of them sitting in the parking lot of his Milpitas warehouse.

Rael, a professor of architecture at UC Berkeley, said he and his wife weren’t trying to make political statement with the SOL Grotto, even if they acknowledge the name’s intentional double-meaning, playing off the company’s name and “S-O-L,” a slang term meaning “out of luck” preceded by a vulgar word.

Rael and San Frantello say they’re happy it’s generating discussion and drawing visitors. He doesn’t blame the Obama administration for Solyndra’s bankruptcy.

“Good things come from failure,” Rael said. “Companies that take risk, risk failure, but there’s a tremendous amount of investment that isn’t lost.”

He added, “All the knowledge that was gained moves forward in some shape or form.”

While the grotto isn’t drawing praise from many Republicans, it has garnered uniformly positive reviews from visitors, said Paul Licht, director of the Berkeley Botanical Garden.

“If a political discourse has brought people into the garden,” Licht said, “then I’d say finally politics has done something useful for us.”