The news of Solyndra firing over 1,000 employees, filing bankruptcy after taking a $535 million loan from the government, and losing $1 billion of private investor money, has resulted in nation-wide scrutiny for the American solar industry—especially companies that are receiving federally backed loans, like Abound Solar.
Abound Solar, headquartered in Longmont, Colo., received a guaranteed loan of $400 million from the Department of Energy in 2010, and now many are taking a closer look at how Abound Solar and other solar companies that have received guaranteed loans are faring.
According to Julian Hawkins, Senior Vice President, Abound Solar is doing quite well.
“Abound is kind of an out-and-out manufacturing company, and it has come down to the fact that the company is very practical, and the factory is very cost-conscience,” said Hawkins. “So it’s been very different for us because our focus from day one was to produce the lowest cost solar panels in the world, and we are still on track to do that.”
Abound Solar plans to use its guaranteed loan to continue expanding manufacturing in the U.S.
“We are working on product development—improving efficiency in our product— but we are also increasing capacity at our Longmont facility,” said Hawkins. “The increase is designed to reduce the cost of our module as well as increase capacity. The remainder of funds will be used to put in a third line in Colorado, as well as to build the facility in Indiana, a program that will run through 2014.”
Hawkins also said that while loans from the DOE are certainly beneficial in both backing expansion and enticing other investors to get behind Abound Solar, a federal loan does not mean a company doesn’t work for its money—the government parcels out its loans over the course of a few years (Abound Solar has currently only received about $100 million of its loan) and requires companies to continuously prove their ability to spend wisely.
“With a relatively new but strategically important industry like the solar industry, many countries have chosen to make available funds to build out the industry at a relatively early stage,” said Hawkins.
Abound Solar’s development seems to prove a sharp contrast to Solyndra, and a reason for continued solar funding—According to Hawkins, with an eye for cost-efficiency, the U.S. government joins other leading nations in prioritizing solar development, and that gesture is important to the industry as a whole.
Image courtesy of Abound Solar.