US solar panel tariffs would throw shade on renewables growth

I'm a fan of the Trump on Earth podcast - interesting topics, thoughtful discussion with guests, and just enough into the detail-weeds to satisfy the wonk in me.

A recent episode, "Renewables in the Trump Era: Doomed or Too Big to Fail?" highlights the potential chilling impact on US solar deployment if the Trump administration proceeds with a possible trade tariff action against lower cost Chinese solar panels. Ostensibly this is supposed to boost the price competitiveness of US-manufactured panels, but there's every reason to expect this would only serve to drive down the growth in solar - especially utility-scale - while really doing nothing to bolster true renewables innovation.

I don't hear this talked about this much, so glad they brought it to the surface. What unseen hands and forces might be advocating for these higher solar panel tariffs? Who stands to gain, and who to lose?



Rick Shankman's picture

"What unseen hands and forces

"What unseen hands and forces might be advocating for these higher solar panel tariffs?"

Yes Curt, let's take a closer look at those hands and forces...

  1. SolarWorld Americas Inc. of Florida (, the self-described largest solar panel manufacturer in the United States for the last 40 years.  See also SolarWorld AG (founded in 1988), who filed for bankruptcy in May of 2017.  SolarWorld was one of two co-petitioners (with Suniva below) to the United States International Trade Commission to tariff foreign solar.  See  Question: Who divested their crystalline silicon PV solar business to SolarWorld AG in 2006?  Shell.  Yep, Shell, the founding partner of the MITEI.  Again, Shell DIVESTED IT'S SOLAR to SolarWorld AG in 2006.  On August 18, 2017, it was published that ailing SolarWorld Americas is now for sale...
  2. Suniva Inc. of Georgia (actually owned by Shunfeng International Clean Energy Ltd. of China), the self-described "America's Leading Solar Manufacturer," also in bankruptcy as of April 18, 2017. See... (please take note of tiny American flag on website). Suniva was also - ironically - a heavy EXPORTER of solar, as recognized by the Export-Import Bank of the United States.  See...  So, Suniva would have had its export business harmed if other countries had instituted the tariffs it is now asking the United States to impose.

Now that we see the hands, let's take a look at the forces (and motives)...

"Bankrupt solar manufacturer, Suniva, petitions Trump for a 100% tax on solar panels

Solar panel manufacturer Suniva, who recently filed for bankruptcy, has made a request for “global safeguard relief” from imports of crystalline silicon solar PV cells and modules. Suniva has requested that President Trump impose a four-year minimum import price on PV modules and cells, starting in year one at US$0.78 per watt for modules and $0.40 for cells.

This will more than double the price of the lower priced solar panels – and increase solar system pricing up to 40% for large-scale utility projects, 30% for commercial projects, and 20% for homeowners. This pricing for solar panels was last seen in the United States in 2014-2015. Suniva has lost more than $500M since 2015....

Ironically, a Chinese billionaire owns Suniva.  Shunfeng International Clean Energy Ltd., the Hong Kong-based solar company controlled by billionaire Zheng Jianming, agreed to acquire a majority share of U.S. solar manufacturer Suniva for $57.8 million in 2015.

Jade Jones, a senior solar analyst with GTM Research, explained the impact on module pricing: “That would bring us to module price levels seen in the last oversupply cycle. So similar to prices in 2012. That would also make the U.S. the highest priced market in the world, with module prices more than double other regions.”

We need understand that in China this investment in solar power is a national security action. If we decide to attack them with solar panels again – China will respond like they did last time. Ask US silicon manufacturers how they feel about the Chinese market and its duty rates of 53.6% to 57% [emphasis mine].


"Who stands to gain, and who to lose?"

You tell us Curt.  Who stands to gain from solar in the United States being the most expensive market and hardest to implement financially?  Could it be the same (fossil fuel) people who divested from solar in 2006?

Further, the U.S. taxpayers helped finance this debacle (later sold to a Chinese billionaire) in 2010, to the tune of $15 Million in working capital from the U.S. Export-Import Bank...

Rick Shankman's picture

"Thanks Rick, I had a feeling

"Thanks Rick, I had a feeling you'd throw light on some of these forces"

No problem Curt, that's what I'm here for.

Now, on a more serious note...

ClimateX has a duty (along with MITACAL) to provide climate action leadership.  That leadership can begin now with a petition in opposition of the new CUP plant proposal and construction.  This petition should allow for digital signatures from the ClimateX membership and the larger MIT community.  This petition should state clearly the opposition to MIT CUP partnering with fossil fuel and burning any non-renewable fuels in the new plant.

Let's now have all staff of ClimateX "throw light" on the issues in every climate piece and podcast produced.

p.s. Don't forget to save the Earth by sending home solar panels to rural communities in Africa and India lacking clean air, water and basic sanitation.