First Solar has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio against fellow Ohio CdTe thin-film solar panel manufacturer Toledo Solar after learning that Toledo Solar allegedly modified, marketed and sold First Solar panels under the Toledo Solar brand. Additionally, Toledo Solar was allegedly claiming the solar panels were made in the United States although they were from the First Solar factory in Malaysia.
First Solar is asking that Toledo Solar immediately inform all consumers who purchased the mislabeled solar panels, as they wouldn’t qualify for any tax credits they are looking to gain by using American-made solar panels. First Solar is also asking the courts for Toledo Solar to be permanently prohibited from marketing, selling and/or installing any mislabeled solar modules.
“We were disappointed to learn that Toledo Solar has modified, marketed and sold First Solar’s CdTe solar panels as its own, and have filed a complaint against the company for deceptive trade practices,” a First Solar spokesperson said in a statement. “Given our role as a solar industry leader with a track record in championing domestic solar manufacturing, we have taken this action after careful consideration of the seriousness of the matter. Our intent is to address and ultimately resolve the issue by having Toledo Solar notify all purchasers of any First Solar panels that it has sold as its own, and to prevent it from making further false claims and selling any additional First Solar panels it may have in stock.”
The new serial number etchings over top the previous First Solar numbers
First Solar first discovered the alleged tampering last year, when a nonprofit asked for First Solar’s assistance in decommissioning and recycling an 18-year-old First Solar system installed at the Ohio Governor’s mansion in a Columbus suburb. New solar panels from Toledo Solar were at the site preparing to be installed. The Toledo Solar panels had serial numbers that indicated they were made in First Solar’s Malaysian facility in 2018 and sold to an Ohio solar developer in 2019. Excess solar panels are often resold, which could be the case for the Ohio developer, although no further information was provided. The panels had also been altered with new serial number etchings and replaced junction boxes.
First Solar then investigated further by ordering 200 Toledo Solar 115-W panels in January 2023. The panels were delivered in February and included a label indicating they were made by Toledo Solar in the United States. First Solar inspections of the modules determined they were First Solar panels made in Malaysia.
Toledo Solar started a 100-MW annual capacity manufacturing line in Perrysburg, Ohio, in 2020. The Perrysburg facility, which is less than 10 miles from First Solar’s multi-gigawatt manufacturing campus, was set up to make CdTe thin-film panels for the residential market where First Solar does not focus.
“We hold First Solar in a high regard. I’m a shareholder,” Toledo Solar CEO Aaron Bates told Solar Power World in 2020. “We don’t consider Toledo Solar to compete with First Solar. That’s one of the decisions we made very early on. If we were going to investigate going into solar, we would only do it if there was a niche market we could service that would not compete with First Solar. They are utility-scale. Toledo Solar services the non-utility market in the United States.”
Toledo Solar announced in late 2022 that it would expand its small line to reach 2.8-GW manufacturing capacity by 2027.
Requests for comment to Toledo Solar have gone unreturned.