Following on the coattails of other failed “green” energy companies, a Colorado-based solar firm announced Thursday it will file for bankruptcy. Like many other green-tech companies, Abound Solar secured a loan guarantee — worth $400 million — from the Department of Energy (DOE) under the Obama administration.
Abound borrowed about $70 million against the guarantee before DOE officials froze its credit line last year. The company said it will suspend its operations immediately, which will result in about 125 employee layoffs. Citing a devastating expansion in Chinese solar production, Abound said in a press release that foreign manufacturers have made the solar market far too competitive, and that, consequently, it is imperative that import tariffs be implemented:
Abound believes that, at scale, its USA-made CdTe panel technology has the ability to achieve lower cost per watt than competing crystalline silicon technology made in China. However, 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. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, the U.S. solar market has seen the prices for panels drop by more than 50 percent in the past year at a time when the value of imports of Chinese-made solar cells nearly quadrupled from $639 million in 2009 to $3.1 billion in 2011. Abound supports recent initiatives to enforce fair trade with import tariffs, but this action is unfortunately too late for the company.
Abound secured the loan guarantee in 2010 to expand operations at a plant in Longmont, Colorado, and to construct a new plant in Tipton, Indiana — while pledging to generate more than 1,200 jobs. But as the price of solar panels plummeted, prompting the DOE to suspend its line of credit, the company slashed its workforce by 70 percent, firing about 100 part-time workers and 180 full-time employees.
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