Solar panel maker Abound quits amid Chinese competition

Solar panels are pictured in the Nevada Desert (Reuters/Jason Reed)
American solar panel maker Abound Solar, which received a $400 million loan from the US Government, announced it’s going to file for bankruptcy following declining demand in Europe and the US and intense competition from Chinese manufacturers.

­Abound said it would suspend all operations and lay off its 125 employees. In February, the company announced it had to close its factory to focus on the production of a more efficient product. Abound produced panels that made electricity directly from sunlight using cadmium, which was cheaper than commonly used silicon cells. Falling silicon cell prices erased this advantage.

Also, “aggressive pricing from Chinese solar panel companies have made it very difficult for an early stage start-up company like Abound to scale up in current market conditions,” the company said in a statement.

Earlier this year US solar panel makers led by US SolarWorld, asked the government to increase import tariffs on solar panels made in China in a bid to restrict Chinese companies’ presence on the market. Abound also said, it supports the measures but they are too little too late for the company.

The failure of Abound comes after the collapse last year of another high-tech solar panel maker, Solyndra, which also received $528 million from the government. Solyndra dismissed 1,100 workers and was raided by F.B.I. agents looking for evidence of alleged fraud.

The U.S. solar market has seen the prices for panels drop by more than 50% in the past year, while the value of imports of Chinese-made solar cells skyrocketed from $639 million in 2009 to $3.1 billion in 2011, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.