House committee investigates government loan for solar panels that burst into flames

A congressional oversight panel wants to know when the Obama administration became aware of significant technological issues at a renewable energy company it helped fund, including the propensity of its solar panels to burst into flames when exposed to the sun.

Abound Solar Manufacturing was awarded a $400 million line-of-credit in taxpayer-backed loans from the Energy Department (DOE), and is the third company funded by President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan to go bankrupt, along with Solyndra and Beacon Power.

Republican Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, along with Cliff Stearns of Florida and Cory Gardner of Colorado, sent a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Wednesday instructing the agency to turn over certain information on the loan.

“While documents prepared at the time DOE awarded a conditional commitment to Abound do not mention any technological problems, an engineering report submitted to DOE just two months before DOE closed Abound’s $400 million loan guarantee indicates that Abound’s panels were already experiencing significant efficiency and technological difficulties,” the lawmaker said.

Abound spent $70 million of the loan it received in 2011 before going bankrupt in July. Company officials blamed the failure on China for dumping solar panels subsidized by the Communist regime on the U.S. at prices below market value.

Upton’s committee led the congressional investigation into whether the Obama White House pressured the Energy Department to lend another solar panel company, Solyndra, $535 million in guaranteed loans. Solyndra filed for bankruptcy last year.

The committee is asking the Energy Department to turn over all engineering reports, tests and technical assessments it was provided by Abound, as well as all documents relating to the performance of its products by Oct. 24.