The Suntech fraud case, what it means for Suntech customers and the Australian solar market

Chinese manufacturer, Suntech, is out to address the question mark that has hovered over the future of the company since May 2012 , following the widely misreported Global Solar Fund (GSF) fraud case. Unfortunately, reporting of the case has focused on Suntech’s 80% stake in the GSF giving the impression that the case is against Suntech itself. The company’s 11 year history has largely been ignored, as has the company’s response to many of the news stories about the case. In reality Suntech is still the largest solar PV manufacturer in the world, producing high quality, fair priced options for residential and commercial solar customers, especially with their 25 year performance guarantee.

The Global Solar Fund fraud case

Although new of the GSF fraud case is now somewhat out of date, some customers are have been reluctant to invest in Suntech products based on the ‘sensational’ aspects of the case rather than information put out by Suntech regarding ongoing developments. What residential and commercial solar PV customers need to know, is that the funds tied to the GSF are separate from the every day workings of Suntech and the company itself is operating with a ‘business as usual’ approach. The solar farm in the middle of the case is currently operational generating power and, therefore, revenue. The media has phrased many headlines and opening paragraphs with ‘investment fund controlled by Suntech’ rather than using the name ‘Global Solar Fund’ (GSF), giving the impression that Suntech is being taken to court. It is as a result of Suntech’s 80% stake in GSF, a body designed to provide funding for commercial scale solar projects across Europe, the company’s name has been associated with the court case and, therefore, negative press.The facts of the case are, in order to develop a 100Kw solar farm in Italy the fund borrowed money, this was guaranteed by Suntech as a result of the collateral put up by former Suntech employee, Javier Romero. After securing the loan and building the solar farm Suntech became aware that the collateral provided by Mr Romero, US$700 million in German bonds, may never have existed. Mr Romero has now been removed from the management board and the assets of the GSF frozen in order to protect the interests of the share holders. The finances of Suntech have not been affected by these proceedings.The Italian Court who filed the charges accused the GSF of developing the scheme to ‘milk state subsidies’ by undertaking several smaller projects to take advantage of a quicker less through planning permission process. Suntech have also addressed these claims:

“Many solar plants owned by other developers and in the same region of Italy were developed using a similar permit process. We have been advised by GSF management that the permit procedures were in compliance with all the relevant laws and regulations at the time of development. GSF management intends to contest the charges vigorously and expects to achieve a positive outcome.”

What this means for the Suntech customers

Suntech continues its worldwide operations as planned and is still the global leader in solar PV, customers purchasing Suntech panels will still recieve one of the highest quality products on the market and the security of the company’s 25 year warranty. Over Suntech’s 11 year history they have delivered more than 25,000,000 photovoltaic panels to over a thousand customers in more than 80 countries, in 2012 the company reached the landmark of having produced over 7GW of installed capacity globally. The company’s history and ongoing investment in the Australian market is a sign of the ongoing stability of the company and the reliability of the Suntech brand. In December 2012 Suntech will open a new R&D facility as UNSW, expanding on the 450 R&D staff who currently work through out the world. The company’s R&D focus and Quality Control tests are focused on developing more cost effective products, although initially more expensive than some manufacturers Suntech products are built to last – panels have guaranteed productivity levels for up to 25 years and are expected to last much longer. Each cell must pass 26 tests and solar modules an additional 26 tests, indeed the panels are subjected to an enhanced IEC test to simulat weather extremes above and beyond the minimum standards, allowing Suntech to guarantee a minimum performance level over a 25 year period and a low failure/breakage rate, indeed over the company’s 10 year history they boast a warranty claim rate of below 0.06%. Suntech are promoting several unique benefits of their products such as ‘current sorting’ and self cleaning panels. The current sorting system which may give customers an extra 2% additional power, each cell is tested and grouped together based on current, each cell is the manufactured from cells from one current group boosting the output by 2%, all Suntech cells also have anti-reflective, self-cleaning glass which, again enhances efficency and performance. For more information about Suntech individual products you can read our blog post.