Threat Of Solar Import Tariffs Still Alive

PowerScout, a California-based solar advocacy group, recently interviewed members of the solar industry in locations all across the United States to get a feel for how tariffs on solar imports could affect their industries.

Southern Current’s VP of Development and Strategy, Bret Sowers, was one of the five industry members consulted for the news piece.

Effect of tariffs on the residential solar market

Mr. Sowers commented that solar import tariffs may increase the total system cost by two or three thousand dollars, and that may mean the difference between a customer having the savings to purchase a system. And on another hand, it could also prevent customers opting for finance from being able to meet approval guidelines.

View of 20.7 kW Pelzer, South Carolina residential solar project installed by Southern Current.

“It would disqualify them from getting solar for their house. This wouldn’t be based on something they did wrong or the company did wrong, but by the fact that we have an artificially raised price of panels.” -Bret Sowers, Southern Current’s VP of Development and Strategy

Effect on commercial & utility-scale solar markets

Mr. Sowers also noted that the tariff will affect the ability for utilities to choose solar farms over fossil fuels for power generation.


View of Southern Current’s 6.5 MW Atkinson Solar Farm utility-scale installation in Beulaville, North Carolina.

“In South Carolina, the avoided cost rate for one of the utilities is $34/MWh. Foreign [solar panel] manufacturers were the only ones who could supply the quantity of modules we needed for these projects. If you raise the price up to the 78 cents (per watt) that Suniva is requesting, it would no longer be viable to sign an avoided-cost contract with the utility. They’re not going to purchase that solar power. They’ll say ‘we’re just going to build a combustion turbine because it’s cheaper’. And those utility-scale solar projects will die.”

Feedback from other solar industry members

“SolarWorld is a German company that’s been in and out of bankruptcy since 2010. Suniva is owned by someone offshore also. Even if we did all domestic manufacturing, they might create 500-1000 jobs but they’re going to take away 20,000-30,000 installation jobs. Once we stop installing, there’s going to be no demand for their product and they’re going to lay off their manufacturing employees anyway.” -Kent Harle, Founder of Stellar Solar, a California-based installer

“Potential customers will have second thoughts because of the price or because of the longer return on investment.”  -Ronnie Mandler, CEO of Best Energy Power, a New York-based solar company

“Most customers are looking for the most cost effective panel they can get since these systems are already quite expensive. They are looking to make sure they can get their money back. And I don’t think there’s any question that the tariff will cause a net loss of jobs. There’s a lot more jobs on the installation side than manufacturing. ” -Jack Ailey, CEO/Founder at Ailey Solar in Chicago, Illinois

“If you’re going to do a tariff, it needs to be progressive. If you try to flip it all over to American-made panels, the American manufacturers aren’t going to begin to be able to keep up. This will spike prices and put the industry on a standstill. “ -Samuel Florence, CEO/Founder of Alternatex in Dallas, Texas

Key Takeaways

This solar tariff ruling has yet to be determined, but it is clear from the comments above that most industry members are hoping said tariffs will not be imposed.

Widespread job losses are possible, along with higher costs for all solar users, commercial, residential, and utility-scale.

Join us in fighting together to protect the 370,000+ Americans who work in solar by contacting the Trump Administration and voicing your opposition to solar tariffs.

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About Southern Current

Southern Current is proud to be one of the top Solar Installers in the Southeast. Thanks to the numerous Solar Rebates & Incentives that are currently available, there’s never been a more affordable time to create your own energy!

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