Cheap Solar Panel Imports Hurt American Manufacturing, Says Trade Group

solar-panel-array-1794503_960_72033Solar power has become an increasingly popular source of energy in the United States. Statistics show that the United States had 40 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity at the end of 2016 — that’s nearly double the capacity it had just one year prior in 2015. In terms of energy production, solar panels are responsible for producing roughly 1.47% of the country’s total power.

In order to produce solar power, large photovoltaic panels must be constructed and installed. But rather than producing these panels here in the United States, many companies are importing them from overseas. And according to a trade group, these imports are hurting the U.S. manufacturing industry.

Earlier this month, Suniva Inc. and SolarWolrd — two of the nation’s largest manufacturers of solar panels and solar technology — issued a statement saying the influx of cheap imports has been disastrous to their respective companies. With so many cheap solar panels being imported from overseas, Suniva has been forced to declare bankruptcy, while SolarWorld says it has laid off three-quarters of its employees.

A trade group representing the solar industry has said scenarios such as this are becoming increasingly more common in the wake of cheap imports. And if action is taken to resolve the issue, it could cause a substantial increase in the price of solar installations, with analysts predicting a 50% or more price increase.

So, what’s next for the U.S. solar industry? President Trump will now decide whether to place tariffs on imported solar panels. The general idea behind a tariff is to encourage companies to either build solar panels in the United States or buy them from other vendors who produce them in the United States. A tariff would still allow companies to purchase solar panels from overseas, though it would come at a greater financial cost. The tariff fee would likely encourage companies to buy their solar panels domestically instead of internationally.

When speaking about the imports, White House spokeswoman Natalie Strom said the president “will examine the facts and make a determination that reflects the best interests of the United States. The U.S. solar manufacturing sector contributes to our energy security and economic prosperity.

Of course, solar power is expected to be a major development in the years to come. California Governor Jerry Brown, for instance, recently signed legislation requiring the state’s utilities to obtain 50% or more of their electricity from renewable sources like solar by the end of 2030.

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