Criminal Investigation Into Solar Subsidy Company
A bankrupt Longmont-based company that received $68 million in stimulus money is under investigation by the Weld County district attorney’s office. 7NEWS has confirmed Abound Solar is under investigation.
Abound made solar panels which it sold across the country, Europe and India.The Department of Energy approved nearly $370 million in federal stimulus money for Abound. The company received $68 million before payments were stopped in 2011.
Sources tell 7NEWS that the company’s finances are under scrutiny.
7NEWS obtained internal documents from 2012 that show orders for tens of thousands of replacement solar panels. The orders cite different reasons for the replacements including, “low performance,” “under performance” and “catastrophic failures.”
The orders are for replacements requested after the Department of Energy stopped stimulus money payments to Abound.
“These are solar panels we are now seeing reports that said they worked as long as you didn’t put them in the sun,” said Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. “Now the question is did the (Department of Energy) — did they know something that the rest of should have known? Did Abound not tell the DOE something? These are questions that need to be answered.”
Gardner represents northern Colorado in Congress. He confirmed with 7NEWS that he will be sending a letter to the Department of Energy seeking records and information about what it knew while providing money to Abound. Gardner sits on the Energy and Commerce committee which oversees the Department of Energy loan program that provided money to Abound.
“We need to know, did the Department of Energy — did they close on the loan when they knew there were technical problems with the product?” said Gardner. “The fact that we have taxpayers on the hook for $70 million means that we, in Congress, have a responsibility to make sure nothing was done improperly.”
Weld County also gave Abound a tax break when it set up its headquarters in Longmont.
In 2010, it received about $100,000 in a tax break for meeting certain requirements, including job growth. In 2011, county commissioners suspended that tax break out of concern the criteria was no longer being met.
The county is seeking nearly $1 million in unpaid 2011 property taxes from Abound and more than $800,000 in unpaid property taxes from 2012.
“There were a number of people — hundreds of people — who lost their jobs. There were people who invested significant amounts of money and there were consumers who bought these solar panels and we’ve got to look out for them,” said Gardner.