Abound Solar Files For Bankruptcy, More Juice for the GOP

Abound Solar, which received a $400 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy (DOE) in 2010, hasn’t found a buyer and is suspending operations and filing for bankruptcy.

As in the case of Solyndra, and a slew of other solar companies – even some of the most successful pioneers like Q-Cells – Abound Solar couldn’t compete with the very low prices offered by Chinese manufacturers.

The failures have nothing to do with the DOE program, but Republicans still fault the agency for supporting young renewable energy companies, having drawn out the Solyndra investigation for years.

DOE’s guarantee was for Abound to build two thin-film factories, but the company ended up building only one plant. It was among the first group of companies to begin building a solar supply chain in India and receive support from the Ex-Im Bank for that, is among 200 companies honored for "pushing the greentech community forward into tomorrow’s clean world."

Abound borrowed about $70 million against DOE’s guarantee, and US taxpayers may lose about half of that after its assets are sold off.

"When the floor fell out on the price of solar panels, Abound’s product was no longer cost competitive," says Damien LaVera of the DOE. The company stopped production and focused on cost-cutting, but it wasn’t enough.

"Aggressive pricing actions from Chinese solar panel companies have made it very difficult for an early stage startup company like Abound to scale in current market conditions," says the company.

"This is not surprising at all," says Anthony Kim, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "They were trying to sell to a competitive, over-supplied market with limited production. That keeps costs high."

In total, DOE gave almost $35 billion in loans, loan guarantees and conditional commitments to renewable energy companies, the vast majority of which are performing well.

One of those companies is Brightsource Solar, which got a $1.6 billion loan guarantee for the Ivanpah Solar Project. It announced last week that it is buying a 500 MW solar project from another defunct solar developer, Solar Trust.

In early June, Konarka Technologies filed for bankruptcy, a Massachusetts-based company that Governor Mitt Romney supported with $1.5 million in state loans as part of his clean energy push before he was over-taken by special interests and the right-wing of his party. His state also supported now-defunct Evergreen Solar.

Konarka had a Nobel Prize-winning co-founder and had raised over $70 million in venture capital and $20 million in government grants. It was developing "Power Plastic"- solar cells integrated into tents, bags and even clothing that could charge electronic devices.

The day before Konarka’s announcement, Romney invited the media to a major speech, which just happened to be in front of Solyndra’s building.

This hypocracy is unnecessary, but it keeps on going. Keep in mind the memo that’s been uncovered to undermine public opinion of renewable energy and the efforts of ALEC to dismantle state Renewable Portfolio Standards and regional climate cap-and-trade pacts, among others. 

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