The Threat of Tariffs Is Already Reshaping the US Solar Market

Greentech Media


You’ve probably heard about the solar eclipse that will pass across the U.S. on August 21.

But if you’re in the solar industry -- whether a manufacturer, contractor or service provider -- you're no doubt aware of a much more significant eclipse: the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) case on imported crystalline-silicon solar cells and modules.

You may think that this industry eclipse is not a big deal, or that it's someone else’s problem. You’re wrong. It’s time to break out your peril-sensitive sunglasses.

Suniva and SolarWorld are seeking tariffs of $0.40/watt on all imported solar cells and a minimum price of $0.78/watt on solar modules that use imported solar cells. On September 22, the ITC will determine if the crystalline-silicon PV industry was harmed by global trade practices. If harm is determined, a remedy recommendation will be sent to President Trump.

I’m normally a very optimistic guy -- otherwise I wouldn’t be in the solar industry. But a tariff or minimum price of this magnitude would present severe difficulties.

It would effectively double the price of the vast majority of modules installed in America. Current production of solar cells in the U.S. is currently negligible, and it takes two or more years to begin production of solar cells at a new or relocated factory. If a tariff or minimum price is imposed, we can expect that all solar module prices that use imported cells will increase (including those assembled in the U.S.), and this increase will persist for several years until domestic cell capacity ramps up.

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