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What Chinese Tariffs Could Mean for Solar

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Hanwha Q Cells Panels

The controversial petition filed by Suniva after is bankruptcy has been at the center of many discussions, blogs and news articles, for good reason. The Georgia based, Chinese owned manufacturer filed a Section 201 petition under the 1974 Trade Act, asking for a $0.40 per watt tariff on imported solar cells and a price floor of $0.78 per watt for solar panels. This would essentially double the cost of solar panels shipped in the United States and could have a large effect on future residential and commercial solar installations.

Almost every company in the solar industry, including First Solar and SunPower have taken a strong stance against Suniva’s position, arguing that the tariff would not only affect the future of solar installations in the United States and halt job growth. SunPower does not seem overly concerned with the petition, believing that the tariff is unlikely to pass. Other manufacturers are concerned that President Trump will implement the tariff. Currently there is not a great deal of information or news from the Trump administration on Suniva’s petition, only time will tell if the petition will pass.

Other leading solar manufacturers have taken a position similar to Suniva’s in the past, namely SolarWorld. Although the European branch filed for bankruptcy shortly after Suniva, they continue to support Suniva’s position, citing the low cost of Chinese solar panels as the primary reason for their bankruptcy. The American branch of the company SolarWorld America was not pulled into their parent companies bankruptcy, and although they were vocal in the past regarding implementing a Chinese tariff they have remained silent on this issue. This could be due to a change in their position or simply, their focus is on continuing production after their parent company’s bankruptcy. Again, only time will tell if SolarWorld will join with Suniva in pushing the petition.

In the event that the petition does pass, American companies such as SolarWorld may have ample room to reach more home and business owners. Other companies such as Canadian Solar will remain unaffected, while others that have their manufacturing take place primarily in Mexico will also remain untouched. That being said, low priced panels from Hanwha Q Cells, Trina Solar and even Panasonic will be affected, and the price of their panels will increase. If the tariff were to pass, it is likely that there would be a flood of orders for the low-priced modules for commercial systems and the new less cost competitive modules will be difficult to come by.

In the current political and economic climate, it is unlikely that Suniva’s petition will be addressed any time soon. There are more pressing matters between the United States and China’s trade that are currently in the forefront of this administrations mind. Even after trade negotiations between the two countries is finalized, it is unlikely that the petition would go through solely backed by one bankrupt company. The strong stance against the tariff from most companies in the industry will cause enough opposition for the administration to take notice. Much like the petitions filed in the past by SolarWorld, it is likely to be a long and drawn out battle with little support from others in the industry.

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