House GOP wants chief of failed solar firm to testify

Trent Waterhouse, an Abound spokesman, noted Witsoe has appeared before the committee in the past and added, “it would be his intention to cooperate again.”

Witsoe appeared at a May 16 hearing of the government spending subcommittee, which will also hold the upcoming hearing. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the panel's chairman, sent Witsoe a July 2 letter asking him to appear.

Abound is the second Energy Department-backed manufacturer of solar panels to go belly-up. Solyndra, which had won a $535 million loan guarantee in 2009, collapsed last year.

Abound's collapse creates new political problems for the green energy loan program and new chances for Republicans to criticize President Obama, who touted the Abound loan guarantee in a July 2010 address about efforts to boost the economic recovery.

The July 18 hearing, the latest of several on the green energy loan program, will focus on Abound and also explore “whether Abound was simply a microcosm of larger systemic failures” in the portion of the loan program supported through the 2009 stimulus law, a committee aide said.

Abound was awarded a $400 million federal loan guarantee in 2010 to support expanded manufacturing, but only drew $70 million of the financing.

“When the floor fell out on the price of solar panels, Abound’s product was no longer cost competitive. As a result, the company was unable to meet some of the financial milestones built into the loan agreement to protect the taxpayers and — in September 2011 — the Department halted disbursements on the loan,” said Energy Department spokesman Damien LaVera June 28 in a blog post on the department’s website.

Republicans have pounced on Solyndra, Abound, and headwinds facing some other green energy companies that have received loan guarantees or other federal backing, alleging Obama administration green energy programs have been a failure.

But the Energy Department has pushed back. The department has highlighted successes of the wider loan program, including loan guarantees for power generation projects that form a much larger share of the program than solar manufacturing.