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Solyndra, the solar manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy after receiving a government loan, is suing three Chinese solar companies with facilities in the U.S., claiming they used unfair pricing to undercut American competitors, costing over a thousand American solar jobs and sending Solyndra into bankruptcy. Is the lawsuit justified?
On one hand, people (ahem, Republicans) have been pointing fingers at Solyndra to demonstrate the supposed failure of Obama’s Department of Energy’s loan program since August 2011. Roughly 1,100 workers lost solar jobs after bankruptcy was filed. The company is clearly looking for a scapegoat.
That’s leading many people to dismiss the lawsuit, and take the opportunity to further scoff at Solyndra.
On the other hand, the U.S. Department of Commerce did recently rule that Chinese companies have been unfairly flooding the U.S. market with too-cheap solar products. The Department of Commerce has imposed tariffs that attempt to balance the scales, making Chinese products competitive with American ones. After the tariffs were finalized, Solyndra lost no time filing a lawsuit for $1.5 billion.
The initial loan from the Department of Energy amounted to $535 million.
It’s worth noting that Solyndra has always blamed Chinese companies for costing American solar jobs.
It’s also worth noting that Solyndra’s initial business plan depended on solar prices remaining high. That all went down the drain when cheap Chinese products came on the scene.
But it wouldn’t be fair not to mention that Solyndra’s technology–tubular shaped PV panels–cost more to produce than regular versions, anyway.
While Solyndra is right to blame the Chinese companies for sending them into bankruptcy and costing U.S. solar jobs, it wouldn’t be fair to lay all the blame on China. Solyndra might have better prepared itself to adjust to the fluctuations of the market. It also might have developed less expensive technology. The company’s failure is not on solar’s shoulders, per se, but on an inadequate business strategy.
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