The state of the USA solar industry: 5 questions answered

Marco Green
January 27, 2018

In addition to tariffs imposed on imported solar panels, Trump implemented similar ones on washing machines, effectively making these decisions the president's first major steps towards his "America First" regime in what he says "are needed to safe guard USA industry", Reuters reported.

A new report from GTM Research says utility-scale solar deployments are set to decline 11% from the tariffs or by 7.6 GW in the next four years.

However, the Solar Energy Industries Association says more than 260,000 Americans are employed in the sector, but less than 2,000 of those are manufacturing solar cells and modules.

"SMA's market outlook includes a slightly negative impact from the import tariff", SMA said on slides published during its capital market day, giving no further details on the impact.

But energy analysts say the tariffs could in fact increase the price of solar systems and stunt the industry's growth while jeopardizing tens of thousands of jobs in the US solar sector. Its executive vice president, Tom Kosto, told The New York Times this week the tariffs will force it to cancel expansion plans.

The company also this week reported preliminary 2017 results and predicted growing sales this year.

"The jobs that have been lost because of cheaper solar cells have already been lost", Heinrich said in an interview. Domestic manufacturers are moving toward greater automation and reduced labor costs that will allow them to compete on the global stage.

The added cost won't make or break a microgrid project, said some microgrid developers, noting that the larger the microgrid, the more impact the solar tariffs will have.

The fastest growing occupation in the USA right now is solar panel installation, but maybe not for long. The tariffs don't make sense - unless the Trump administration really intends to deal a blow to solar energy in general. Installations have soared more than tenfold since 2010, with the biggest jump coming in 2016, after prices for solar panels collapsed.

The broader United States solar industry has fiercely resisted the new tariffs.

"There's a significant supply of those products in the USA already, so no immediate change anticipated", he said.

"This administration's focus is on USA manufacturing and U.S.jobs and getting tough on China for the trade deficit", he said, "so we think the administration's goals are very well-aligned with saving USA solar manufacturing". "We support a resolution that is in the interest of American workers and, also, the American consumer".

"Both of his immediate predecessors made similar tariff decisions early in their presidencies and came to regret them", "Studies have shown they likely caused the loss of more jobs than they saved".

"When they threaten to raise prices, that's nonsense", Autry said. The move was anticipated and is consistent with the Interior Department's recent decision to open numerous country's coastal waters to oil exploitation.

In Savannah, Julian Smith who owns and operates Smith Solar says he doesn't use Chinese imports, but rather a German made solar panel.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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