Abound Solar Inc., a U.S. solar manufacturer that was awarded a $400 million U.S. loan guarantee, will suspend operations and file for bankruptcy because its panels were too expensive to compete.
The failure will follow that of Solyndra LLC, which shut down in August after receiving a $535 million loan guarantee from the same U.S. Energy Department program. Abound stopped production in February to focus on reducing costs after a global oversupply and increasing competition from China drove down the price of solar panels by half last year.
“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,” the company said in the statement.
U.S. taxpayers may lose $40 million to $60 million on the loan after Abound’s assets are sold and the bankruptcy proceeding closes, Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman, said in a statement today.
“When the floor fell out on the price of solar panels, Abound’s product was no longer cost competitive,” LaVera said.
Cliff Stearns, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s oversight panel that has held several hearings and collected thousands of administration e-mails relating to Solyndra’s guarantee, said he didn’t think Abound’s closure warranted its own investigation.
“We know why they went bankrupt. We warned them they would go bankrupt,” Stearns, a Florida Republican, told reporters today. “The larger question is why the administration was pursuing a green-energy policy in which companies are going bankrupt and wasting taxpayer money.”
Stearns said his panel would probably hold a hearing on the guarantee program. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, continues to investigate the loan-guarantee program and still hasn’t received some requested documents from the Energy Department, said Jeffrey Solsby, a spokesman for Issa.
Abound was awarded the loan guarantee to build two factories to make thin-film panels using cadmium telluride. It completed one plant, in Longmont, Colorado, and never began construction on the second, which was planned for Tipton, Indiana. The company last received money from the Energy Department in August, before Solyndra’s collapse.
Representative Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican, said he supported Abound because he thought the company would boost his state’s economy.
“We had a terrible economic problem. Plants were closing there in that area,” Burton told reporters in Capitol Hill today. “We thought this would be a great way to create jobs. If I had known that Abound, or Solyndra, had been in the fiscal situation it was in, I certainly would have never supported it.”
“This is not surprising at all,” Anthony Kim, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in New York, said today in an interview. “They were trying to sell to a competitive, over- supplied market with limited production. That keeps costs high.”
The Energy Department has provided almost $35 billion in loans, loan guarantees and conditional commitments to renewable- energy companies. About 35 percent of that is for solar- generating projects, which benefit from falling panel prices, compared with less than 4 percent for solar manufacturers, according to LaVera.
Besides Abound and Solyndra, two other solar manufacturers received loan guarantees. 1366 Technologies Inc. won approval to borrow as much as $150 million to produce polysilicon for solar panels and SoloPower Inc. was awarded a $197 million guarantee to make rolls of flexible solar panels using a copper-indium- gallium-selenide composite.
Neither 1366 nor SoloPower have drawn funding under the Energy Department program, LaVera said.
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