Checking the headlines today, I noticed one declaring that Abound Solar, a solar panel manufacturing business located in Colorado, had filed for bankruptcy and was going to lay off all 125 of its employees. I was struck by the news first because I just finished writing my book about renewable energy and so I’m generally sensitive to this sort of news. But I was also struck more personally because a few years ago, while researching the book, I visited Abound and was given a tour of the facilities. Behind a glass partition I got to watch the manufacturing process in real-time, as regular sheets of glass were turned into thin-film solar panels. It was truly impressive.
When I heard that Abound was going under, I first felt bad for the good people there who showed me great hospitality and took the time to show me around. Those people will shortly lose their jobs in a very tough job market.
I also felt bad for President Obama, whose administration had backed Abound. Like Solyndra, Abound will now surely be used as an example of poor judgement on Obama’s part. But that is patently not the case. Abound was a very solid, well-run company using very sophisticated technology it had developed in-house. The company failed only because Chinese investment in solar panel manufacturing has brought the price of panels down so far that it’s incredibly difficult for small companies to Abound to compete.
While this is obviously bad for abound, it’s actually good for the solar energy sector. Cheaper panels means that more businesses and people can afford them, which spurs forward the greater cause of growing the use of solar energy around the world.
So while I feel bad for the employees of Abound, perhaps they can take some solace in the knowledge that their work has been important and that their industry is vital and growing.