Abound Solar completes financing for Tipton plant

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Abound Solar Inc., a Loveland, Colo.-based manufacturer that plans to open a massive solar-panel plant in Tipton, has raised $110 million from investors and closed on a $400 million government loan guarantee to increase its production capacity, the company announced Tuesday.

In addition, Abound has secured the abandoned Getrag transmission plant site in Tipton by having a developer acquire the property.

A quarter of the $400 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy will help Abound double annual production at its Longmont, Colo., plant to 200 megawatts by 2012. The rest will be used to complete by 2014 what may become the largest U.S. module factory, with 640 megawatts, in Tipton, the company said. The DOE guarantee was awarded in July.

The company plans to take over the empty Getrag plant on U.S. 31 near Kokomo, creating as many as 1,000 jobs in the next three years. The company has increased its Indiana job-creation estimate by 150 since first announcing its plans in the summer. About 200 workers will be added in Colorado, it said.

The 781,500-square-foot former Getreg facility has been sold for $25 million by Franklin Advisors LLC, an agent appointed by U.S. bankruptcy court to sell the plant and distribute the proceeds to lien holders, including a number of subcontractors that are owed about $44 million.

The buyer of the plant and 106-acre site, W.W. Reynolds Cos. Inc., is a Boulder, Colo.-based real estate developer that will lease the facility to Abound Solar.

The plant has been empty since 2008. Getrag Manufacturing LLC filed for bankruptcy and halted work on the plant after the company's partnership with Chrysler LLC collapsed. The proposed $530 million development has never been used.

Patrick Lindley of local real estate firm Cassidy Turley represented Franklin Advisors in the transaction.

Abound Solar's latest funding round includes existing investors led by Invus Group, and two new backers, BP Plc's alternative energy unit and West Hill Investors, the company said.

"We're beginning the process of scaling up and becoming a major manufacturer," Abound Solar CEO Tom Tiller, 49, said. "We're really pleased that all of our existing shareholders took part and that we were also able to attract two new ones."

U.S. solar manufacturers exported $723 million worth of panels and equipment last year, and domestic sales reached $2.6 billion, the Solar Energy Industry Association said Tuesday in a report.

Tiller said about 90 percent of Abound's sales are in Europe, and most of the production from the expanded factories will be exported to the European region.

Abound now employs about 450 workers, Tiller said.

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