Energy Department protects trade secrets of bankrupt solar company

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

Abound Solar filed for bankruptcy in June 2012, but the Department of Energy is still protecting their trade secrets, reports the Colorado Watchdog.

The Colorado Watchdog filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Energy in early August — about six weeks after Abound’s bankruptcy — asking for all testing data on solar modules produced by the company.

The response Colorado Watchdog got was a bunch of test pages with all the relevant data redacted.

“Abound Solar has substantial commercial interest in protecting the release of the redacted confidential module test data within the responsive records, since the public release of this confidential information could be used by competitors to gain an undue advantage over Abound Solar,” the DOE reply letter said.

“Competitors would be able to use this technical information to undercut Abound Solar in future DOE competitive grant application opportunities,” the letter continued.

But the company no longer exists, as it filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in June, after years of producing faulty panels that were prone to catching fire eroded their customer base.

A Daily Caller News Foundation investigation of Abound Solar found that 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 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.

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

Furthermore, the company may have mislead lenders at one point in order to keep itself afloat.

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.

“We’ll be sending our appeal on the decision to redact the documents later this week,” writes the Colorado Watchdog. “In the meantime, let’s at least hope the administrators of the Department of Energy’s loan programs know what their FOIA bureaucrats don’t.”

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