Solar industry clashes over imports at trade hearing

Houston Chronicle


U.S. solar manufacturers and developers clashed Tuesday in a hearing before the U.S. International Trade Commission over whether solar panels from Asia represented an unlawful threat to domestic manufacturers.

Two U.S. solar manufacturers, Georgia-based Suniva and Oregon-based SolarWorld, are calling for the ITC to impose tariffs on foreign-made solar panels across the board, arguing that large manufacturers abroad are dumping their products onto the global market below cost, driving American competitors into bankruptcy.

"The U.S. is literally strewn with the carcasses of shuttered solar manufacturing facilities," said Matthew McConkey, an attorney representing Suniva. "Are we supposed to believe the almost 30 members of the domestic industry that have gone out of business over the last five years, all of them made bad decisions while companies in Korea (and other countries) were so brilliant? Please."

Suniva is petitioning the ITC for a four-year tariff on a type of solar panel most commonly sold around the world. But the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group backing solar developers who buy the panels, is fighting to stop them, arguing manufacturers' struggles stem from a failure to anticipate shifts in the market. The group estimates the tariffs would wipe out more than one-third of their industry's 250,000 jobs.

Last year solar accounted for almost 40 percent of new generation on the U.S. power grid, more than any other source, according to data compiled by GTM Research, a market analysis firm that studies renewable energy. Solar capacity in Texas doubled last year to 1.2 gigawatts, enough to power more than 200,000 Texas homes.

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