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.”
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.
Jeff Burns says
The Ohio solar industry has a lot of positive momentum right now with First Solar’s current large-scale manufacturing and Longi’s announcement of a 5 GW factory being built soon. And the State of OH is being very receptive to even more high quality solar module manufacturers looking to open a factory there.
Those who take shortcuts and cheat the system will soon find themselves falling off the solar coaster rails …
Ryan Pickering says
Incredible hubris from Toledo Solar. I’ve seen some dubious actions in the heat of this industry but this is on another level of duplicity.
Jared Sears says
Looks just like the couple pallets worth that I just purchased. I’m curious what the return policy is on untouched pallets. Or maybe I can get a discount/refund for what the customer won’t be receiving in incentives.
That’s a shame. I was looking forward to installing some US MADE (locally made for me) solar panels..
Controversy isn’t a good look for a start up.
“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.”
First Solar is right in their claim, yet, First Solar did this themselves when several years back, First Solar decided to enter the Utility solar PV business exclusively. This meant solar PV panels of 24 square feet or more and voltage outputs of around 220VDC, not a good fit for residential or small business roof mount panels. Toledo Solar 115 to 121 watts have two problems, they are smaller than most mono crystalline solar PV panels produced today that are 20 to 22 square feet and 21% to 24% efficient. Say for a typical residential solar PV installation one could have 7.85kWp to 8.97kWp solar array of 400 square feet on one’s roof and it would take about 20 panels. With the Toledo solar product one is looking at about 8 square feet per 121 watt panel and it would take 65 panels to meet the output of a mono crystalline silicon array that would put out 7.85kWp and cover 520 square feet on the roof. As for code requirements, one might have to fit 20 solar PV panels with RSD modules or one could put 65 RSD modules on the 65 panel Toledo Solar project. Bad, bad, Toledo Solar, no CdTe!!
Kelly Pickerel says
The issue at hand here is not whether CdTe modules are appropriate for small, residential-scale applications. The problem is that Toledo Solar is selling First Solar panels and claiming Toledo Solar made them.
Thank you and I do understand, I’m just sayin’ with NEC codes and NFPA 70 E “suggestions” it seems like RSD devices “per” panel is becoming the new normal. What do RSD modules cost per unit? How many does one need per project, that does need some serious consideration in the overall system design and execution. If you recall First Solar started to move away from the smaller panels around 2015, then decided to curtail their EPC tranche and ownership of large scale utility projects to concentrate on the larger, now Series 6 panels manufactured currently. My point is utility scale panels on residential roofs are a mismatch and this allowed Toledo Solar to become interlopers in the residential tranche of solar PV, where it probably should not be.