China firms say Solyndra looking for scapegoats

China-based solar panel manufacturers say a lawsuit against them by Solyndra is an attempt to blame competitors for a failed business model after the bankrupt company filed an unfair trade practices lawsuit.

Solyndra, which went bankrupt after it received a federal loan guarantee for $535m, filed suit in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California on Sept. 12. Solyndra is seeking $1.5bn in compensation for the lost value of its business.

In the suit, it claimed the companies conspired to dump below- cost solar panels into the United States to drive Solyndra out of business. The suit alleges a Chinese trade association aided in the scheme and was assisted by banks that lent money to the companies at below-market rates.

Not so, said the U.S.-based operations of the companies.

A target of the lawsuit said the complaint filed in U.S. District Court is an attempt to divert attention from the real issues.

“It is obvious that this lawsuit is a misguided effort by Solyndra to find scapegoats for its failure to commercialize its technology at a competitive price point.  As a global company and an American solar manufacturer, we are proud of the work we have done to make solar affordable for millions of Americans and people around the world. Solyndra’s allegations are baseless and we intend to defend against these allegations vigorously,” said E. L. “Mick” McDaniel, Managing Director of Suntech America.

Trina Solar Limited (NYSE: TSL) also said Solyndra’s complaint is flawed. “The Company believes the lawsuit is without merit and will vigorously defend itself against the baseless allegations in the complaint,” Trina said in an e-mailed statement.

The lawsuit was filed against Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd (NYSE: STP), Trina Solar Limited (NYSE:TSL) and Yingli Green Energy Holding Co (NYSE: YGE), claiming that the trio’s panel prices moved in tandem – falling 75% in four years in the U.S.

“Defendants employed a complex scheme, in collaboration with each other and raw material suppliers and certain lenders, to flood the United States solar market with solar panels at below-cost prices,” the suit says.

The suit references the trade case that has been brewing between the U.S. and china, which led to tariffs being levied on Chinese panel manufacturers, including this lawsuit’s defendants.

The punitive levies range from 24 to nearly 36% on most Chinese imports. They were assessed by the U.S. Department of Commerce on Oct. 10.