By Todd Shepherd | Colorado Watchdog
The U.S. Department of Energy is working to protect the trade secrets and the competitive edge…of a company that doesn’t exist anymore.
That’s the only conclusion you can draw from the recent response to a Freedom of Information Act request to the DOE asking for all their testing data on modules produced by Abound Solar.
Abound was among the many green energy companies originally touted as a jobs maker by the Obama administration, with the company eventually securing millions in government backed loans. In June, Abound was compared to Solyndra when the company announced they would enter Chapter 7 bankruptcy, thereby shuttering their doors forever. Furthermore, the company has received frequent and vocal criticisms regarding the political connections between wealthy Democrat donor Pat Stryker, an original investor in Abound, and the White House. Stryker was a bundler for President Obama’s 2008 campaign, and visited the White House three times in the months surrounding the announcement of the DOE loan to Abound.
However, knowing that there were serious questions beginning to emerge about the quality of Abound’s product, Colorado Watchdog filed a request with the National Renewable Energy Lab asking for all benchmark tests of Abound’s product. (Not only is NREL a research lab, it also certifies the efficiency of renewable energy products like solar panels for the DOE).
The DOE and NREL graciously supplied the test pages, with all pertinent data redacted.
“Abound Solar has substantial commercial interest in protecting the release of the redacted confidential module test data within the responsive records, since the public release of this confidential information could be used by competitors to gain an undue advantage over Abound Solar,” the reply letter stated. “Competitors would be able to use this technical information to undercut Abound Solar in future DOE competitive grant application opportunities.”
Makes sense, except for the fact that Abound isn’t even a company any more, having filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on June 28. The request for the information was filed in early August, roughly six weeks after Abound’s demise.
We’ll be sending our appeal on the decision to redact the documents later this week. In the meantime, let’s at least hope the administrators of the Department of Energy’s loan programs know what their FOIA bureaucrats don’t.
Contact Todd Shepherd at firstname.lastname@example.org