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First Solar accuses Toledo Solar of ripping off their product in federal lawsuit

First Solar says panels on the governor's mansion falsely labeled as Toledo Solar modules built in the United States are actually their products made in Malaysia.

TOLEDO, Ohio — First Solar is suing Toledo Solar in federal court, claiming that Toledo Solar has been passing off solar panels as its own when those panels were actually made by First Solar

According to the company's complaint, Toledo Solar misrepresented the panels provided for the Ohio's governor's mansion as its own products made in the United States when those panels were made by First Solar in Malaysia.

The governor's mansion first installed First Solar solar panels in 2004. In early 2022, according to the complaint, a representative of the non-profit Green Energy Ohio contacted the company to ask about how to dispose of the old panels as the mansion planned to replace them with new solar panels.

View the full lawsuit below. Mobile users click here.

When a First Solar representative went to the mansion in the summer of 2022 to retrieve the old panels, he noticed new panels being installed were marked with labels identifying them as labeled as being “Made in the USA” and manufactured by Toledo Solar as Model Number TS1.  

When he looked closer the First Solar representative said he noticed imprints and serial numbers that showed the panels were actually First Solar Series 4 modules manufactured by First Solar at its facilities in Malaysia, the lawsuit said.

To disguise the solar modules, it appeared that Toledo Solar etched a new serial number on the outside of the top glass panel of the module and that the company replaced First Solar's junction box on the back of the module with a new junction box, the complaint said.

The lawsuit lays out three main instances of "false designations:"

  1. False claims that it manufactured in Ohio solar modules that were installed at the Ohio Governor's mansion in Columbus;
  2. False representations that solar modules it sold to a distributor were manufactured by Toledo Solar in Ohio; and
  3. Falsely advertising that certain solar modules were manufactured by Toledo Solar in Ohio.

First Solar spokesman Reuven Proenca issued this statement to WTOL 11:

“We were disappointed to learn that Toledo Solar has modified, marketed, and sold First Solar’s CadTel solar panels as its own, and have filed a complaint against the company for deceptive trade practices. 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.”

A spokesperson for Gov. Mike DeWine called the allegations "factual," but declined further comment. Toledo Solar did not respond to a request for comment as of late Wednesday afternoon.

First Solar, based in Tempe, Ariz., has manufacturing facilities in Perrysburg, Malaysia and Vietnam. The company is the largest domestically headquartered solar module manufacturer in the U.S. and has been manufacturing solar modules at its Perrysburg facilities since 2002.

Perrysburg-based Toledo Solar was incorporated in 2019.

According to First Solar's complaint there are about 48 modules at the governor’s mansion that are incorrectly designated as Toledo Solar products made in the United States. The modules are actually First Solar products made in Malaysia, according to the complaint.

After discovering the panels at the governor's mansion, First Solar investigated further in early 2023 and ordered 200 Toledo Solar 115w modules from a retail distributor of solar modules for testing. 

"Like the modules provided by Toledo Solar for the Governor’s mansion, the modules consigned by Toledo Solar for sale included First Solar’s manufacturing serial numbers showing they were manufactured by First Solar in Malaysia," according to the complaint.

The company's lawsuit asks the court to issue an injunction stopping Toledo Solar from representing First Solar products as its own. The company also asked the court to require Toledo Solar to inform customers who may have bought Toledo Solar products labeled as "Made in the U.S.A." that were actually First Solar products made in Malaysia.

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