The Colorado manufacturing facility of Abound Solar, which went bankrupt, has been reported by US news outlets as having left toxic and hazardous waste behind that could cost as much as US$3.7 million to clean up.
According to a document from the Colorado Department of Health, obtained via a freedomof information request, 630lbs of cadmium was removed from the site and taken to a waste disposal facility.
It was also reported by mainstream US media that the company had borrowed around US$70 million on a loan guarantee worth US$400 million before going bankrupt. However, much of that money was earmarked for use in building a manufacturing facility in Indiana, which was never built.
Matt Feinstein, senior analyst at Boston-based Lux Research, in a telephone conversation with PV Tech explained that there was no getting around the fact that cadmium is a toxic material, and can leave hazardous waste if not handled correctly.
Feinstein explained that polysilicon pricing and manufacture is as volatile as any commodity and Abound Solar had failed to foresee associated costs of thin-film falling, eventually affecting the competitiveness of the company’s products.
Abound Solar was pushed out of existence by competition from China as cheap panels flooded the market, before Abound panels could reach commercialisation. The loan programme under which government funding was approved for Abound Solar has since expired. US thin-film leader First Solar, survived the influx of Chinese panels into the US market, recycled around 11,000 Abound Solar panels earlier this year.
In an interview with PV Tech this week, the Department of Energy's Minh Le defended the DoE's support for solar programmes.