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  • Green Graveyard: An In-Depth Look at Government's Bad Bets on 19 Now-Bankrupt Companies

    As a follow up to the Green Graveyard overview, this post provides additional information concerning the funding for each of the now-bankrupt green energy companies. In one of the most extensive compilations to date, Heritage has identified 19 bankrupt green energy companies that were unable to succeed even with the government’s promise to provide generous financial assistance totaling a whopping $2.6 billion.

    1. Abound Solar: George W. Bush’s Administration first offered this Colorado-based company federal assistance in 2007 to the tune of $3 million as well as a $400 million loan guarantee. Before announcing bankruptcy in June 2012, Abound was promised an additional $374.6 million from the Obama Administration. The company was also offered $12.6 million in federal tax credits. During its short-lived heyday, Abound received the distinction of ranking 17th out of “100 Recovery Act Projects That Are Changing America.”

    Government’s Bad Bet: $ 790.3 million

    2. Solyndra: Despite the fact that Vice President Joe Biden once hailed this now-infamous company and its $535 million loan guarantee as an “unprecedented investment this Administration is making in renewable energy and exactly what the Recovery Act is all about,” Solyndra succumbed to Chapter 11 status in September 2011. That’s two short years after being offered federal financial assistance. Despite supportive statements and visits from top Obama Administration officials, Solyndra was unable to avoid its fate in the Green Graveyard.

    Government’s Bad Bet: $570 million (includes federal loans and state tax breaks not listed)

    3. A123 Systems: Having been showered with visits from a host of elected and government officials during the Obama Administration (then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), to name only a few), government funding for A123 actually began in 2001 during the Bush Administration. The company declared bankruptcy in October 2012, a little over one year from the date that President Obama offered this encouraging remark: “There is A123, a clean energy manufacturer in Michigan that just hired its 1000th worker as demand has soared for its vehicle components. Companies like these are taking root and putting people to work in every corner of the country.” And this isn’t the only form of praise A123 received. Secretary Chu called A123 “a great example of how we are working with industries to create jobs, strengthen our manufacturing industry, and help our auto companies compete in the global market.” In fact, A123 is also still listed as a “Hall of Fame” company on the Small Business Innovation Research website.

    Government’s Bad Bet: $377.1 million (includes state and federal tax credits, grants, loans, and incentives not listed)

    4. Ener1 (EnerDel, subsidiary): Declaring bankruptcy in January 2012, one year to the date of Vice President Biden’s visit, this Indiana-based company was also first offered federal funding during the Bush Administration. During his visit, Biden noted, “This Administration is forging a new path forward by making sure America doesn’t just lead in the 21st Century, but dominates in the 21st Century. We’re not just creating new jobs but sparking whole new industries that will ensure our competitiveness for decades to come—industries like electric vehicle manufacturing.” A clear favorite of the Obama Administration, Ener1/EnerDel was ranked 67th out of 100 companies listed in the Administration’s report, “100 Recovery Act Projects that Are Changing America.”

    Government’s Bad Bet: $182.8 million (includes state and federal assistance not listed)

    5. Range Fuels: Range Fuels, a company that attempted to develop a technology to produce biofuels, filed for bankruptcy in fall 2011. In 2007, Range Fuels was offered $76 million from the Bush Administration’s Department of Energy. At the Georgia plant’s groundbreaking, then-Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman praised Range as a “pioneer” that would “reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” In 2009, the Obama Administration also extended an $80 million USDA loan guarantee. In addition to these robust federal funding proposals, the state of Georgia was also willing to put up $6.25 million in the form of a grant.

    Government’s Bad Bet: $162.3 million (includes state and federal assistance)

    6. Azure Dynamics: After announcing a $5.4 million DOE award in August 2011, Azure filed for bankruptcy roughly six months later in March 2012. A few months before the DOE grant was announced, Azure was also offered an award from the Government Services Administration totaling approximately $112 million. In addition to these federal government offerings, the state of Michigan also promised incentives like a $1.7 million tax credit. None of these handouts ended up being enough to reverse the company’s fate.

    Government’s Bad Bet: $119.1 million

    7. Energy Conversion Devices (subsidiary, United Solar Ovanic): In 2006, President Bush visited the company’s Michigan facility and touted the need for the federal government to invest in energy-efficient technologies: “The role of the government at this point is to continue to spend research dollars, to help push technologies forward; is to get these technologies to be even more competitive in the marketplace. And I’m calling on Congress to join us on this most important energy initiative.” While Bush’s presidency ended in 2009, that didn’t stop Congress from heeding his call and authorizing a $13.3 million Manufacturing Investment Tax Credit in 2010. A bipartisan group of Michigan’s congressional delegation, including Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) and Representative Fred Upton (R), also encouraged DOE to consider additional financial assistance for United Solar as well as other companies. Despite $97 million in state and local incentives and credits, Energy Conversion declared bankruptcy in February 2012.

    Government’s Bad Bet: $110.3 million (includes additional state incentives not listed)

    8. Evergreen Solar: First offered federal assistance from the Clinton Administration in September 2000, this Massachusetts-based company filed for bankruptcy in August 2011, even with the $58.6 million in state subsidies and $26.3 million from the federal government. Garnering much support from the state of Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick (D) took every opportunity to praise Evergreen’s work.

    Government’s Bad Bet: $84.9 million         

    9. Beacon Power: This Massachusetts-based company was awarded its last grant roughly two months prior to announcing bankruptcy in October 2011. The Obama Administration offered Beacon large amounts of stimulus grants, including $24 million in December 2009. Beacon’s Stephentown Regulation Services was also offered a $43 million grant. An additional grant totaling $4.2 million came to Beacon via the DOE’s ARPA-E program. The government first began offering federal funding in 2004. Not wanting to be left out, the state of Pennsylvania awarded Beacon a $5 million grant just two months before the company declared Chapter 11.

    Government’s Bad Bet: $77.4 million (includes additional federal subsidies not listed)

    10. Raser Technologies: Once again demonstrating the bipartisan nature of this problem, Senator Orrin Hatch (R–UT) offered these remarks at Raser’s groundbreaking ceremony in 2008: “Today marks a turning point in our energy future.… New geothermal technology, combined with Raser’s innovative development strategy, can unlock this nation’s vast reserves of geothermal power. If our goal is to reduce greenhouse gases, then increasing our renewable energy production is a must. Utah has one of our nation’s largest geothermal resources, and I’m pleased Raser is setting the pattern for our future.” Senator Hatch’s supportive words and the $33 million grant offered to Raser in 2010 were still not enough to prevent the company from calling it quits in April 2011.

    Government’s Bad Bet: $33 million

    11. Nordic Windpower: First awarded funding in summer 2009, Nordic Windpower declared bankruptcy in October 2012. Nordic was offered funding from both state and federal governments, including being awarded with a $3 million Clean Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit as well as a $16 million loan guarantee.

    Government’s Bad Bet: $24.6 million (includes state incentives not listed)

    12. SpectraWatt: This New York-based company also garnered financial assistance from both federal and state governments. In 2009, the company was awarded a $500,000 National Renewable Energy grant along with an additional $20 million in public subsidies, which includes state funding. Even a visit from Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Representative John Hall (D–NY) in spring 2010 wasn’t enough to prevent the company from declaring bankruptcy in August 2011, approximately one year after their visit.

    Government’s Bad Bet: $20.5 million

    13. Konarka Technologies: Massachusetts-based Konarka, tasked with developing solar panels, is another company that filed for bankruptcy in 2012—10 years after it was first awarded state and federal funding. From 2002 until 2009, Konarka continued to receive generous awards from entities such as the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust as well as monies from the DOE, among other agencies.

    Government’s Bad Bet: $13.6 million (Heritage’s calculations), $20 million according to Konarka’s website

    14. Satcon Technology Corporation: A mere three months before declaring bankruptcy in October 2012, Satcon sent out a news release on July 12 titled, “Satcon Named #1 Large-Scale Solar Inverter Supplier in North America.” The company’s bankruptcy announcement came after the DOE offered it a $3 million grant. The DOE’s website also lists other grants that include Satcon as a partial recipient. Heritage has made an inquiry to DOE about the exact amounts offered to Satcon.

    Government’s Bad Bet: $17 million (includes federal grants not listed)

    15. Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Company: This Wisconsin company filed for bankruptcy in December 2010—less than a year after the government offered it $10 million in January 2010. And that’s not the only amount the government was willing to provide to Olsen; the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Business Cooperative Service also awarded $804,000 to Olsen in 2009.

    Government’s Bad Bet: $10.8 million

    16. Stirling Energy Systems: Stirling Energy declared bankruptcy in September 2011 after being offered two tax credits.

    Government’s Bad Bet: $10.5 million

    17. Thompson River Power: Attempting to master clean coal technology, Thompson River declared bankruptcy in summer 2012. This was after being offered a $6.5 million Section 1603 grant from the Department of the Treasury in 2010.

    Government’s Bad Bet: $6.5 million

    18. Cardinal Fasteners and Specialty: Even the offer of a $480,000 tax credit wasn’t enough to keep Ohio’s Cardinal Fasteners afloat. The company joined the ranks of other wind and green energy companies when it announced bankruptcy on June 30, 2011. Then-President-elect Obama visited Cardinal a few days before his inauguration in 2009. During his visit he remarked, “In some ways you can’t think of a more iconic company than Cardinal Fastener.”

    Government’s Bad Bet: $480,000

    19. Mountain Plaza: Located in Dandridge, Tennessee, this “truck-stop electrification” endeavor lost its steam (or, more appropriately, “electricity”) when it filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2010. Mountain Plaza received $424,000 from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, which doled out $2 million in funding from the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program. Despite the fact that Mountain Plaza declared bankruptcy on June 3, the federal grant was awarded 12 days later on June 15, 2010.

    Government’s Bad Bet: $424,000   

    Elinor Renner, part of the Young Leaders Program at Heritage, contributed to this post.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to Green Graveyard: An In-Depth Look at Government's Bad Bets on 19 Now-Bankrupt Companies

    1. cbg1217 says:

      A few questions for the authors:
      1) In green energy, as a percentage how many companies have received federal subsidies; and how many as a percentage, have gone bankrupt? How does this compare to bankruptcy rates among non-green tech companies, and among companies that do not receive federal subsidies?
      3) Why are they going bankrupt? Some of these began receiving subsidies years ago. Before the financial collapse. How is the financial collapse connected?
      4) Who are these companies competing with – foreign or domestic? – and what advantages might those other companies have? For instance, lower costs in foreign countries are likely to play a big role.
      5) Why have other companies in green energy dodged bankruptcy?
      6) Green energy competes with fossil fuels. What is the role of the explosive growth of hydraulic fracturing in the demise of these companies? How long can we expect hydraulic fracturing to last? What are its downsides? Do hydrofracking companies receive federal subsidies?

    2. Lloyd Scallan says:

      Rachael – If you think the past four years of "green graveyards" building was bad, just wait. Besides, what good does it do to perform a postmortem on an election that the Republican Party made sure we would lose.

    3. Bobbie says:

      Let those that caused the consequences suffer them. Increase taxes on all government employees wages since they're all under the one in charge!
      Tax increase on ALL GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES AND UNIONS, PRESIDENT ON DOWN that's behind this!

      We're sick of being played the chip by government ignorance who's authority intrudes in accountability erasing the line of ethics at a high price to the country! Necessary removal of the non productivity government costs and put the consequences at the cost of those who caused them and all who work for them!

    4. Joe says:

      To ensure federal approval Mountain Plaza's grant, the State Of Tennessee purged the TBI criminal record of Mountain Plaza's president, without an order of expungement. Rick Lewis was on probation for 31 counts of worthless checks, out on bond for Felony Worthless Checks, delinquent on taxes to IRS, TN Labor, TN Revenue, and Jefferson County months before funds were granted.

    5. James Nee says:

      The information in this article concerning Beacon Power and tax payers' lost investment are simply not true. It should also be noted that the current prices paid for natural gas across the nation have been suppressed by roughly 50% since the inception of this and other related technologies. With the political arena now checked, Americans are positioned for a more secure economic and technological solution. Sorry Romney/Ryan, your smoke and mirrors show was foiled to the benefit of all Americans.

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