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President Obama’s ever-growing list of green energy failures now has one more company. Solar panel manufacturer Abound Solar is under criminal investigation for possible securities fraud, consumer fraud, and financial misrepresentation in Colorado. Of this particular company, he said in 2009 that it would create 2,000 jobs in construction and 1,500 permanent jobs. Instead, the plant was closed in July and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, leaving 125 workers unemployed. Abound Solar was a pet project of Obama’s, who believes that green energy will lead to economic growth.
The other legacy of Abound Solar is the government loan on which they have defaulted. The U.S. Department of Energy approved up to $400 million in federal loan guarantees for Abound, with $70 million guaranteed. The DOE estimates that taxpayers will be stuck with $40-$60 million after liquidation. Ironically, this comes just months after calling themselves “The Anti Solyndra.”
The office of Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck said that criminal charges have been filed. They also stated that "officials at Abound Solar knew products the company was selling were defective, and then asked investors to invest in the company without telling them about the defective products.” The consumer fraud allegations comes from information from former employees that Abound sold panels to customers knowing that they were defective. As for the accusations regarding financial institutions, Abound is alleged to have committed this while seeking loans. "Our goal is if crimes were committed to make sure individuals are held accountable," said Buck.
Abound says that the shutdown was due to the inability to compete with Chinese manufacturers. However, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado and other congressional Republicans are investigating whether or not the DOE was aware of Abound’s technical issues before authorizing their loan in 2010. The DOE, of course, says that this was not the case, but that loans were canceled due to a failure to meet milestones. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has been asked by the committee has been asked to turn over all documents related to the loan. In particular, they want to see if independent engineering analysis should have raised red flags. The congressional investigation is not related to the that of the Weld County DA.
It’s possible that the loan was only given for politically expediency. One of the early investors of Abound was Bohemian Companies, chaired by major Democratic donor Pat Stryker. In fact, she is listed as visiting the White House three times. Todd Shephard of the Independence Institute has found that these visits were all “around key points in the process of Abound Solar getting this loan.”
Shepherd also said that "Either people at Abound knew they couldn't produce a good product and they misled the DOE or the DOE knew how bad the product was and they were willing to overlook it simply because the politics of green energy is such a feel good political movement." This sentiment is backed up by employees who have chosen to come forward. "We heard from one employee, a whistleblower employee, who made the statement; the solar panels worked fine as long as you didn't put them in the sun," said Republican Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner. Does this sound like a company in which the government had any business investing taxpayer money?