Another green energy firm bites the dust

Abound Solar's thin-film solar panels.
Abound Solar's thin-film solar panels.
Abound Solar
Abound Solar's thin-film solar panels.
Abound Solar's thin-film solar panels. Abound Solar

(CBS News) It was number 17 on the White House's 100 Recovery Projects That Are Changing America list. Now, Abound Solar is about to join the taxpayer-supported green energy firms that have filed for bankruptcy.

Abound Solar was approved for a $400 million dollar taxpayer loan guarantee under the same program as did now-bankrupt Solyndra. Abound received about $70 million of the total by last Sept., but failed to meet certain financial milestones and the Energy Department cut off the rest of the loan.

The Department of Energy announced news of Abound's impending bankruptcy in an article on its Website defending solar energy entitled "Solar Manufacturing: to Compete or Not to Compete."

Abound Solar was strongly supported by politicians in both parties. Its Indiana plant was supposed to create a thousand full time jobs and generate "several hundred million dollars in revenue." Backers included Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN), Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Representatives Dan Burton (R-IN), Pete Visclosky (D-IN), Mark Souder (R-IN), Mike Pence (R-IN), Baron Hill (D-IN), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Brad Ellsworth (D-IN) and Andre Carson (D-IN). Abound laid off 280 workers last February and reportedly will lay off 125 more next week.

As to how much of the $70 million taxpayers will get back: that will be determined in bankruptcy court. The Energy Department says any money lost can be offset by tax dollars set aside in a loan-loss reserve established by Congress for this purpose.

Abound's loan has been under investigation by the House Oversight Committee which found the company had received a "junk credit rating of B, below that of the failed Solyndra," before the taxpayer investment.

The Energy Department says the solar industry employs 100,000 workers, double the 2009 number. "When the floor fell out on the price of solar panels, Abound's product was no longer cost competitive," said the Energy Department.

Abound will be the third company to declare bankruptcy in the Energy Department's 1705 program that guaranteed loans to 20 companies. Solyndra, which was approved for $535 million dollars, declared bankruptcy in Sept. 2011 and Beacon, which was approved for $43 million dollars, went bankrupt in Nov. 2011.

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    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.