Another U.S. Solar Manufacturer Bites the Dust - Abound Solar to File for Bankruptcy
The sharply plummeting price of crystalline photovoltaic panels has claimed another industry victim. The Colorado based Abound Solar will terminate its thin-film solar panel business and file for bankruptcy this week, according to a June 28th Department of Energy blog entry.
Abound Solar, which received a DOE loan guarantee of $400 million in July 2010, has since struggled to stay price competitive in the rapidly shifting solar marketplace. Crystalline silicon solar panels, thin-film's main technological competitor, have unexpectedly plummeted in price by as much as 47% over the past year due to massive Chinese manufacturing subsidies and European rollbacks of consumer incentives. Simply put, Abound was "trying to sell to a competitive, over-supplied market," according to Bloomberg. Abound, which ceased manufacturing its product in February, is the second DOE guaranteed thin-film company to close its doors as a result.
The failure of another DOE guaranteed green energy company has provoked the predictable wave of criticism from the opponents of renewable energy, including chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's oversight panel Cliff Stearns. "We know why they went bankrupt," Stearns told Bloomberg on June 28th, "the administration was pursuing a green-energy policy in which companies are going bankrupt and wasting taxpayer money."
Despite such statements, the Department of Energy is offering no apologies for its loan guarantee, which was matched by $300 million dollars of private investment from sources including private equity and venture capital firms. "While disappointing," wrote DOE spokesman Damien LaVera in the blog post announcing the bankruptcy, "this outcome reflects the basic fact that investing in innovative companies... carries some risk." According to LaVera, Abound was able to draw less than $70 million from the DOE before fail-safes built into the agreement terminated their access.