Too many bad panels
In May, an internal Abound email was published revealing that back in November 2010, Abound sent an engineering technician to remove an entire rooftop of defective solar panels from the headquarters of Democratic benefactor Pat Stryker of Bohemian Companies, an early investor that got Abound about $300 million in start-up capital.
This, however, was just the tip of the iceberg as internal Abound documents obtained by The DC News Foundation show tens of thousands of solar panel replacement approvals for 2012, many of these panels were installed in 2011 or earlier.
One replacement approval from April 2012 was for BP Solar in California to replace 14,700 of the 15,000 solar modules sold to BP at an estimated cost of more than $1 million.
In another case, two replacements of 18,150 solar modules for GP Joule PV Gmbh — out of more than 57,000 sold to the company — were signed in March for a project in Germany.
Another German customer, Wirsol Solar AG, had replacement approvals signed in April to replace 18,350 solar modules out of about 34,000 sold to the company.
Their customers in India were not faring much better, as an approval was signed in February 2012 for Vivaswan Technologies to replace 7600 modules at a cost of about $465,000. Another replacement of 25,050 panels for Vivaswan was signed in April with an estimated cost of $1.3 million, citing a “catastrophic buss bar failure and “degraded” performance.
Another Indian customer, Punj Lloyd had an approval signed in February 2012 to replace 7,800 solar modules, and another one in April to replace 22,650 modules, and both times Punj cited catastrophic buss bar failure and degraded performance.
More documents show that Abound also had high expected failure rates. For example, solar modules in India using a Chomerics-made buss bar had a predictive failure rate as high as 55 percent in five years. For European customers using panels with a buss bar built by 3M, the expected failure rate was nearly as high as 77 percent in five years.
Furthermore, when it comes to known failures, internal Abound documents show more than 38,000 solar module replacements in the first quarter of 2012 alone. The second quarter saw 53,500 replacements, and the third saw 45,300.
Because Abound filed for bankruptcy before the conclusion of 2012, the total known and estimated failures for the whole year was put at 156,983.
Abound only sold 620,106 solar modules, and one source said that “the first million panels built” by Abound were bound to fail.
In total, one Abound financial spreadsheet shows that Abound had an estimated $45 million in total warranty obligations over 25 years, which is how long the warranty on their panels lasted for.