Who’s up for another story about a government-backed "clean energy" initiative laying off a bunch of its staff?
“Colorado-based Abound Solar announced this week it has been forced to lay off 180 of its 400 workers as it tries to retool to produce a more efficient type of solar panel in order to keep a technological edge on Chinese manufacturers who are flooding the market with less expensive models,” ABC News reports. Actually, that number from ABC News is dated. Since originally reporting this story, the number of layoffs has grown to 280.
That’s right. A company that received approval in 2010 for a $400 million government loan has just laid off 70 percent of its staff.
"As you know the solar market has been extremely difficult for all manufacturers," Craig Witsoe, Abound Solar CEO, told ABC News on Wednesday. "To continue to make the panel we make today, to have to sell it below cost, it's a tough environment to operate in."
Perhaps in an effort to stave off criticism for yet another ailing DOE loan recipient, Energy Department officials made sure to point out that the federal loan to Abound had Republican support, including an $11.8 million tax credit from an Indiana Economic Development board chaired by Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN).
"We will continue to work with Abound as we do with all of our loan recipients as it works through these issues," said Damien LaVera, a DOE spokesman. "While the challenges facing solar manufacturers have been widely reported, we continue to believe that supporting innovative companies like this is important to ensuring our nation has the ability to compete for the clean energy jobs of tomorrow."
As alluded to in this article’s headline, this is just the latest in a long line of “clean energy” initiatives that have failed to produce jobs. Earlier this month, you may recall when The Blaze reported that Fisker Automotive, the recipient of a $529 million federal loan, halted production at its Delaware facility and laid off dozens workers.
Before that, A123 Systems, the company developing batteries for Fisker, announced the “temporary” layoff of 125 employees. Oh yeah, A123 Systems had also received a $249 million Department of Energy stimulus grant.
Witsoe blames the failure of the U.S. solar industry on China, claiming that they have created an unfair advantage by selling below market costs.
"We fully support global competition as long as it's fair," Witsoe told ABC News. "It's a company like us versus a country. China plays very hard."
In an effort o meet Chinese competition, Witsoe says Abound must retool and remodel its production facilities.
“But while that work is being done, he said, the company could not maintain the size of its workforce and had to make the painful job cuts,” ABC News reports.
Despite the layoffs, Abound has been able to maintain its goal of producing solar panels for commercial customers in Colorado and Indiana. To date, the company has used $70 million of the $400 million federal loan and is currently in discussions with the DOE about “revising” the terms of its loan to make sure it can get the rest of the federal funds.
"The jobs will definitely come back," Witsoe said. "When we rescale with the new product, we will need to hire back likely as many people as we had. We know this is a really difficult thing. We hate to have any job loss in the company. But it was the right decision for the business."