The Section 201 Trade Case, Part III: Will Any Americans Benefit?

This article is the third in a three-part series on the Suniva/SolarWorld trade case.

I’m fairly certain that there is some American ownership of SQN Ventures and Red Lion Capital, and they would likely benefit from a decision in favor of Suniva. One person who stands to benefit is Jim Modak.

Modak was Suniva’s Chief Financial Officer for eight years, serving until 2016. He then joined SQN Capital Management where he serves as its CFO. Given his previous position at Suniva, he probably negotiated the original $50 million loan by SQN. Now he’s try to recover that money for his new employer. I’d be shocked if he isn’t the prime mover behind the 201 filing.

Other than Modak, few people in the U.S. solar industry will benefit from Suniva/SolarWorld prevailing in this case. Neither company has global scale manufacturing facilities, and I don’t think it will be easy to attract new investors to simply take over the existing facilities.

To effectively compete in solar cell/module manufacturing, a company must be able to address the global PV market. Neither Suniva nor SolarWorld’s parent company have been able to compete globally. Given their financial track records I don’t think it will be easy for either of them to attract new investors. Moreover, Suniva no longer has a workforce; and SolarWorld is now down to 300 employees at most. I’m sure most Suniva sales and engineering folks have new jobs (we’ve hired three). With a healthy economy, I’m sure a lot of the former manufacturing workforces at both companies have new jobs as well. Would you invest in the restart of a firm that has had multiple failures in the past?

I am hopeful that President Trump will see this trade case for what it is — a flagrant, last ditch attempt by international investment firms to rescue their unknown owners’ capital from business deals that have gone bad.

The 38,000 American solar workers employed by U.S. manufacturing firms and the 260,000 strong American solar industry should not be held captive by the greed of a few bankers in London, Qatar and New York who are desperately trying get the U. S. government to rescue them from their poor investment decisions. 

Lead image credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture | Public Domain | Flickr


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Since 2007 Mr. Clifford has led Standard Solar’s rapid growth into a nationally known PV developer/ EPC. Mr. Clifford began his career at Solarex Corporation, later acquired by British Petroleum and known as BP Solar. Throughout his career, Mr. Clifford has served as chief executive officer or chief financial officer of three high growth technology companies that were acquired by major corporations. He is an elected board member of the national Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), serves on SEIA’s Executive Committee and also served as president of the regional chapter of SEIA, MDV-SEIA from 2009 to 2012. Mr. Clifford is the author of a DOE report entitled Tax-Advantaged Investments in Renewable Energy Projects; and received a “Special Achievement Award for Technology Demonstration” from the U. S. Secretary of Energy. He was awarded the 2011 Industry Leader Award by the Maryland Clean Energy Center (MCEC), for his contributions to the advancement of solar and other clean energy resources in the state. Mr. Clifford earned his MBA at University of Virginia’s Darden School and his undergraduate degree at Penn State.

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