Washington solar company 'devastated' over Trump tariff

Robyn Valdez
January 28, 2018

Protectionism is not a policy that will improve this country's economy, and certainly not North Carolina's solar energy industry.

Tesla's nonchalance aside, economists are already sounding the alarm that the market for solar power could suffer as the tariff increases the cost of manufacturing panels. Competitors weren't willing to sell solar panels to customers and guarantee they would absorb any tariff, pushing developers to First Solar's tariff-free panels.

The solar industry is strongest on the Pacific Coast, across the Southwest, Mountain West and East Coast. Instead, they have to compete by having better technology and more capital equipment. In total, more than 6.7 GW of panel bookings were made in 2017 and the company chose to increase manufacturing capacity from 4.0 GW to 5.7 GW.

"We'll have to see, I have no idea". The biggest growth opportunity in utility scale solar is in the Southeast, Texas, and Southwest - regions that went heavily for Trump and also have important Senate elections later this year.

"This is not a deal breaker, by any means", MIcken said.

In the solar market, Suniva and SolarWorld sought a shield.

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New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, in a letter to the International Trade Commission, wrote: "The solar industry is now booming across the nation. The president only has so much power", Smith said.

The new energy industry is working to categorize the various types of microgrids and business models.

SMA Solar, Germany's largest solar group, expects the industry to take a just a small hit from import tariffs imposed by US President Donald Trump this week, sending its shares to an 11-week high.

Goldman Sachs this week warned Trump is "more likely than not" to slap levies on the metal that's used in everything from cars to cans, potentially boosting costs for Americans. Suddenly, a bright future is dimmed.

Echoing her remarks was Gregory Reed, professor and director, Center for Energy and the GRID Institute, Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.

"Someone more famous than I once said the sun is still shining in Kansas", White said. "The decision economically to install solar is still very hard to make and very tight in many cases, in regards to the return on investment and payback period". According to one estimate, the tariff alone will reduce solar installations by. And following the tariff decision, the administration appeared to make efforts to appear more solar-friendly. "That provides certainty in the industry and doesn't destroy it by making it ongoing and never ending", he said.

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Nordloh added that microgrids will continue delivering value in spite of the tariffs.

About of total US solar generating capacity is in a relatively small number of very big projects owned by power companies.

"We have to stop the $20-million investment because the tariffs start before we know if we're excluded", Werner said. As for the coal industry, cheap natural gas, not solar, is what did it in. This action doesn't allow time for that.

North Carolina has seen more of that investment than nearly every other state - more than $7 billion worth through 2016, according to a 2017 report by RTI International.

"He put a tariff on the solar modules but not on the actual cells to assemble them, so literally you could still import the cells and now assemble them in the USA and that will create more jobs", Beck said.

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