Solyndra seeks $1.5B in antitrust suit against Chinese rivals

Solyndra's Factory in Fremont, Calif

Turns out Solyndra, a symbol of solar-investment-gone-horribly-wrong, still has some fighting spirit left in it. The bankrupted company just filed a $1.5 billion anti-trust lawsuit against Chinese solar manufactures.

The federal lawsuit, filed Thursday in San Francisco, accuses major Chinese solar panel makers Suntech Power, Trina Solar, Yingli Green Energy, as well as their suppliers and banks, of colluding to undercut competitors by flooding the U.S. market with products at below cost, Bloomberg reports. Solar panel prices fell 75 percent over four years as a result and forced Solyndra to file for bankruptcy over a year ago, Solyndra says.

Solyndra is seeking $1.5 billion in compensation for the loss of its business value.

The lawsuit seems an odd move for the California company, though winning the lawsuit could help it pay off its list of creditors. The lawsuit also will shine a new spotlight on the trade practices of Chinese solar cell and panel makers, who have risen to dominate the world’s solar market. A day before Solyndra filed the lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued a final decision on tariffs against Chinese silicon solar cell makers after determining that the companies had received unfair subsidies from the Chinese government and were selling their products at below fair market values.

Chinese manufacturers are facing similar trade complaints in Europe. The Chinese government is understandably unhappy with the commerce department’s decision and may slap tariffs on silicon – a raw material in solar cells – from the U.S.

Since its bankruptcy filing, Solyndra hasn’t been able to find a buyer for its technology. The gleaming factory is in the process of being sold to Seagate Technology, a maker of data storage devices.

Solyndra’s rise and fall touched off a political storm about whether the government placed too big of a bet on cleantech companies lie Solyndra, which received $535 million loan guarantee to build a factory. The company was counting on the new factory to mass produce its solar panels, which were consisted of solar cell-filled tubes, and drive down its costs and therefore prices for those panels. The company, which also had raised over $1 billion in private money, couldn’t reduce its costs fast enough, however, before it ran out of money and went bankrupt.

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