Business

Sources, documents suggest government-subsidized Abound Solar was selling faulty product

Seven months after calling themselves the “anti-Solyndra,” the Colorado-based solar panel manufacturer Abound Solar announced it was filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation, arguing that cheap Chinese solar panels flooding the market caused their demise.

“With over $30 billion in reported government subsidies, Chinese panel makers were able to sell below cost and put Abound out of business before we were big enough to pose a real competitive threat to China’s rapidly growing market share,” according to the prepared congressional testimony by Craig Witsoe, former CEO of Abound.

Abound Solar was given a $400 million loan guarantee by the Energy Department, and drew on about $70 million dollars of the guarantee before DOE cut them off in September 2011 — the same month the Solyndra scandal began.

After the massive failure of the solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, Energy Department loan guarantees came under increased media and congressional scrutiny. Other loan recipients felt the public pressure as well.

Internal documentation and testimony from sources within Abound show that the company was selling a faulty, underperforming product, and may have mislead lenders at one point in order to keep itself afloat.

“Our solar modules worked as long as you didn’t put them in the sun,” an internal source told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The company knew its panels were faulty prior to obtaining taxpayer dollars, according to sources, but kept pushing product out the door in order to meet Department of Energy goals required for their $400 million loan guarantee.

“The DOE hurt us more than anything,” another source told The DC News Foundation, speaking of DOE production and revenue metrics.

The faulty solar panels would routinely burn up and virtually all of the panels Abound manufactured underperformed, meaning they did not put out the promised amount of power. Sources say that Abound panels would only put out between 80 and 85 percent of the promised wattage.

These problems led to tens of thousands of panels having to be replaced, especially towards the end of the company’s life.

Burning up and underperforming

In October of 2010, the company discovered that their panels were catching fire. One source said that this problem was brought to the company’s attention during a meeting in October 2010 with some company executives present and the suggestion was made to shut down the factory in order to address the problem.

“Our lead quality engineer… blew the whistle in a manager’s monthly review meeting, and he was basically told to shut up and sit down,” said another source.