Gardner: Abound Solar’s DOE reports shed light on bankruptcy

Quarterly financial reports from Abound Solar that describe the solar panel maker’s troubles with its manufacturing equipment and defective products should add “depth and weight” to a House committee’s investigation into the company’s failure, Rep. Cory Gardner said Wednesday.

“It’s information that will be used to not only defend the taxpayers of this country, but to really give answers to the hundreds of employees who lost their jobs in Northern Colorado,” Gardner said in a phone interview.

Gardner, R-Yuma, and other members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee have been investigating Abound Solar and the energy department’s loan guarantee program.

The quarterly reports, obtained by the Northern Colorado Business Report from the U.S. Department of Energy, reveal a series of production problems and that the Loveland-based company’s revenue and output levels came in lower than it had anticipated through much of 2011.

Abound’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy in July resulted in the layoffs of 125 people, in addition to the 280 job cuts it made earlier in the year, and the closure of facilities in Larimer and Weld counties.

Abound, in media interviews and testimony before Congress, has blamed competition from the Chinese for its failure.

Gardner said he believes China’s support for its own solar industry played a role in Abound’s bankruptcy, but he noted that lawmakers were also looking into problems in Abound’s products.

House Republicans have suggested that a report from an engineering firm commissioned by the energy department in October 2010 — two months before it closed on the loan guarantee with Abound in December — indicated performance problems with Abound panels.

“The question is why would DOE move forward with a $400 million loan guarantee if they knew those product defects existed?” Gardner said.

Just what the DOE knew and when it knew has yet to be established.

Taxpayers will lose $40 million to $60 million from Abound’s bankruptcy, the energy department has said.

“We know, in businesses, that people take risks,” Gardner said. “But when that risk is borne by the taxpayers, and the governing body responsible knew the risks were unacceptable, that’s what this investigation is about.”

Read the Business Report’s story here.

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