Solar-panel company faces lawsuits, investigations

After eight years of installing solar panels on homes in San Mateo County, Bay Solar Power Design is facing a storm of lawsuits and investigations for allegedly cheating customers and business partners out of their money.

The company, based out of Pacifica until last November, when it relocated to Fairfield, is being investigated by the District Attorney’s Office, the Contractor State License Board and the Better Business Bureau. The investigations, authorities said, were prompted by a stream of complaints from former customers who claimed they paid for solar panels and never received them.

Nine former clients of Bay Solar have complained that panels were never installed on their homes since 2000, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Bay Solar and its owner, John Bannen, are names in about a dozen separate lawsuits by customers, suppliers and contractors. Since the company’s termination in March, Bannen and his family have moved out of Pacifica to an unlisted address in Lafayette and the lawsuits have not been served, according to San Mateo County Superior Court records. Bannen and his wife, Lynne, did not answer calls for comment Tuesday.

Attorney Scott Hennigh — who is representing Redwood City resident Dirk Pranke in one of the lawsuits — said the company cashed his client’s $20,000 check in October but never installed the panels.

“My client’s concern is not so much the money, but the principle of the issue to make sure that other people who have had their money taken from them can get their money back,” Hennigh said.

Pacifica resident Rus Allen said Tuesday that he decided to buy panels from Bay Solar last summer after reading that the company was going to open offices in Africa and Mexico. Allen is considering a lawsuit against the company.

“I never got a nagging feeling of him being a crook,” said Allen, who also never received his panels.

Bay Solar’s former employees said the company went down because of bad business decisions, not intentional fraud.

“I don’t think he did anything deceitful,” said Robin Alexander, who served as director of sales for several months before the company’s demise. “The company got hit with a credit crunch. The residential market is gone. It’s just a cause of the times.”

Two other employees said Bannen was counting on a multicompany merger to pull him out of financial troubles, but when the merger didn’t come through, he closed shop and skipped town.

svasilyuk@examiner.com

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