Abound Solar, propped up by tens of millions of dollars in federal loans that remain unpaid, acknowledged defects in the solar panels it was selling before the Colorado company went bankrupt, according to a customer.
Citing confidential documents, Green Choice Solar LLC says the Colorado-based Abound knew about two major problems with some of the company's solar panels.
The company's disclosure, made public in a recent filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, raises new questions about Abound Solar's products and who will pay to get rid of solar panels that don't work anymore. It's unclear from the filing whether federal officials were told about defects. A spokesman for the Department of Energy, which awarded a loan to Abound Solar, declined to comment on the court filing when reached Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Green Choice says it is stuck with thousands of Abound solar panels that are expensive to dispose of because they contain cadmium telluride, a toxic substance.
The company wants permission to file a request for court injunction seeking, among other things, assurances that funds will be available for the "safe and environmentally responsible" disposal of defective Abound panels that are now held by Green Choice.
The request comes just days after a report by the Denver Post that Colorado health regulators had recently ordered Abound to clean up hazardous waste of toxic liquids and thousands of solar panels at four sites that can't be sold.
Abound went bankrupt last year still owing taxpayers about $70 million from an Energy Department loan. The bankruptcy linked the company in headlines to the high-profile collapse of Solyndra LLC, which won more than a half-billion dollars in loans only to go bankrupt and spawn congressional and grand jury investigations.
The two companies offered very different products, however. Abound made thin film cadmium telluride solar modules that turn solar energy into electricity, and the company said its technology performed better than crystalline silicon in low light and high-temperature conditions. By contrast, Solyndra made cylindrical panels that were new to the market and largely unproven.
However, Green Choice attorneys said in court documents the company saw problems with Abound's older modules even before the solar panel maker collapsed. An attorney for the Abound trustee was not available for comment Wednesday.
"In documents marked confidential, Abound Solar acknowledged that two defects were prevalent in the AB1-A units," attorneys for Green Choice wrote in the filings.
While Abound was taking steps to fix the problems, the company went bankrupt, leaving Green Choice thousands of units that will require replacement or will during the warranty period, the company attorneys said.
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Jim McElhatton is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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