4:36pm

Wed July 18, 2012
Business

Abound Solar Executives Grilled During Oversight Committee Hearing

Executives of the now bankrupt Longmont-based Abound Solar faced tough questions by US House Republicans Wednesday during testimony before an Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee.

The failure of Abound, which was backed by $70 million of Department of Energy loans, has been seized on by Republicans who say the Obama administration’s Loan Guarantee Program is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

At the heart of the hearing was if the Department of Energy extended loans to companies like Abound Solar and California-based solar company Solyndra, which has also recently gone bankrupt, knowing both companies were on shaky financial ground as competitors from China flooded the US market with cheap solar panels.

Former Abound CEO Craig Witsoe said the amount of subsidies given to Chinese solar companies by the Chinese government was a surprise, and quickly drove his company into bankruptcy.

“China had dropped prices even below their own cost, that we were unable to compete in that environment. And we certainly never expected prices to fall that fast, or that far.”

Republicans on the committee blasted Department of Energy officials, saying the loan extensions cost tax payers millions of dollars. Reuters reports that Jonathan Silver, former head of the department's Loan Guarantee Program, defended the administration's energy policies:

"The funds represented by investments that have failed represent less than 3 percent of the total portfolio," Silver said in written testimony for the House committee hearing.

"This is a record the private sector would consider remarkable, but is particularly impressive for a portfolio of technologically innovative projects being built at commercial scale for the first time anywhere," said Silver, who is now a visiting fellow at the Third Way think tank.

Abound Solar, which declared bankruptcy last month, was once a rising star in the solar industry. It was named a BusinessWeek 'Top 25 Startup', and the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association's 2010 'High Impact Company of the Year'. 

Abound Solar Company PR Profile Video

House Republicans are drafting legislation [.pdf] that would end the Department of Energy's Loan Extension Program which currently funds renewable energy, nuclear, and low energy fossil energy projects.