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  • American manufacturing of solar panels -- worth protecting?

    The President has expressed his intent to encourage American manufacturing:
    https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press...-hire-american
    and the administration has announced it may impose emergency anti-dumping tariffs on imported solar panels:
    independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-us-solar-panels-job-losses-bankrupt-import-tariffs-taxes-china-a7763941.html
    (There's also talk of a general "border adjustment tax" which would drive up prices of all imports,
    forbes.com/sites/gregpetro/2017/04/28/bat-2-0-dont-take-your-eye-off-the-bat )
    Next door, Europe's solar manufacturers are alarmed at the thought of losing to foreign competition, and are arguing for similar action:
    pv-magazine.com/2017/07/05/european-pv-manufacturing-must-be-preserved-say-more-than-50-organizations/

    If efforts to reduce imports of solar panels succeed, solar install costs would rise, possibly driving some installers out of business:
    nytimes.com/2017/06/30/business/energy-environment/solar-energy-trade-china-trump.html
    But the US earlier brought a successful WTO complaint against India for preferring Indian solar panels:
    reuters.com/article/us-india-usa-solar-idUSKCN11M1MQ
    so any such change might not stand for long without triggering a trade war.

    So... how do people feel about this?
    Should the US engage in industrial policy here to preserve American manufacturing jobs and energy independence, or let free trade reign and enjoy the low cost imports while they're there, and not worry about the trade imbalance?
    And might the President want to use solar import duties as a patriotic way to gently guide the country away from wasting resources on renewable energy, and back to good old red-blooded American coal and oil?
    This seems eminently discussable!
    17kw. I like science, but I'm no expert.

  • #2
    Maybe if the import fees from foreign manufactures could be used to help the US buyer along with a starter funds for a US solar panel manufacturer I would agree with the decision.

    Almost like the carbon tax that some people want levied. AS LONG AS IT REALLY GOES BACK TO THE US PUBLIC and not into someones pocket so that it helps the consumer pay for the higher cost of electricity the POCO's will charge for building the infrastructure and generating plants (and storage) that is associated with RE.

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    • #3
      Ummm, I'd love to see more American manufacturing jobs, but remind me again which panels are actually made in the continental United States? Are there any left (that are still solvent)?I would have said SolarWorld, but alas, no longer solvent.

      EnergySage lists a few: Suniva 2% market share (instigator of the current legislation effort), Sharp? 4% (must be NASA), and a couple others with less than 1% market share.
      http://news.energysage.com/where-sol...-manufactured/

      And what about the inverters / optimizers / micro's manufacturers? Are there any of these in the US (that are still solvent / not de-listed)? I heard SMA is closing their Colorado plant.

      How about we just gussy up the Federal tax incentive? Perhaps even give preferred rebate status for "American" equipment. Establish a Federal SREC (or at least share some of that $450 Washington DC SREC goodness). The vast majority of the American solar industry jobs are with installers out in the field actually doing the work. Building demand through better incentives will grow jobs exponentially more than saving a few line workers I'm sorry to say. Of course, once the incentives end, the bottom will drop out of this market like so many others.

      I guess, thanks to NAFTA, one might include American companies who manufacture in Mexico or Canada. Perhaps SunPower? Though this practice doesn't really help American jobs -- other than perhaps the sales, marketing, and legal teams.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by JSchnee21 View Post
        Ummm, I'd love to see more American manufacturing jobs, but remind me again which panels are actually made in the continental United States? Are there any left (that are still solvent)?I would have said SolarWorld, but alas, no longer solvent.

        EnergySage lists a few: Suniva 2% market share (instigator of the current legislation effort), Sharp? 4% (must be NASA), and a couple others with less than 1% market share.
        http://news.energysage.com/where-sol...-manufactured/

        And what about the inverters / optimizers / micro's manufacturers? Are there any of these in the US (that are still solvent / not de-listed)? I heard SMA is closing their Colorado plant.

        How about we just gussy up the Federal tax incentive? Perhaps even give preferred rebate status for "American" equipment. Establish a Federal SREC (or at least share some of that $450 Washington DC SREC goodness). The vast majority of the American solar industry jobs are with installers out in the field actually doing the work. Building demand through better incentives will grow jobs exponentially more than saving a few line workers I'm sorry to say. Of course, once the incentives end, the bottom will drop out of this market like so many others.

        I guess, thanks to NAFTA, one might include American companies who manufacture in Mexico or Canada. Perhaps SunPower? Though this practice doesn't really help American jobs -- other than perhaps the sales, marketing, and legal teams.
        IMO installation jobs are temporary at best. Sure they can continue to stay working as long as the solar pv systems are selling. But it only took one legal bill in Nevada to make thousands of those "jobs" disappear overnight.

        To count as a true long term job I would say the US needs manufacturing of the solar hardware. Relying on the installation side is just too chancy.

        I am not sure if any "tax incentive" will really work. Remember all of the millions that the Feds loaned US panel manufacturing. That did not keep them from closing the doors before they could pay back what they "borrowed" from the people.

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        • #5
          It will kill the market plain and simple. US companies cannot compete. Take away all the free money (subsidies), pay the real cost, and solar is bust. In fact it is already going bust.
          MSEE, PE

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          • #6
            Originally posted by SunEagle View Post
            To count as a true long term job I would say the US needs manufacturing of the solar hardware. Relying on the installation side is just too chancy.
            To be competitive in any way pv manufacturing will have to be highly automated.
            The successful PV manufacturing companies are very automated now so very few jobs there.

            Installation, support, sales, cleaning, removal, replacement, etc can not be outsourced though.
            OutBack FP1 w/ CS6P-250P http://bit.ly/1Sg5VNH

            Comment


            • #7
              The problem is that investors in this country are only looking for the sure thing-quick payout. No one wants to take any risk. That's why we've seen dozens of Chinese investors and companies buying up start ups in this country. They aren't afraid to spend money when they see something that may be a game changer.

              The tariffs being sought by Suniva will inevitably kill tens of thousands of jobs. There is very little debate on that outside of the anti solar crowd.
              It would bring prices back to what they were 5 years ago, and volume will likely return to that level as well. The effects are already being seen right now. There is immense hesitation in the market, and installations have dropped off quite significantly. Many developers have been trying to secure First Solar panels, as they would be immune from the tariffs.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by emartin00 View Post
                The problem is that investors in this country are only looking for the sure thing-quick payout. No one wants to take any risk. That's why we've seen dozens of Chinese investors and companies buying up start ups in this country. They aren't afraid to spend money when they see something that may be a game changer.

                The tariffs being sought by Suniva will inevitably kill tens of thousands of jobs. There is very little debate on that outside of the anti solar crowd.
                It would bring prices back to what they were 5 years ago, and volume will likely return to that level as well. The effects are already being seen right now. There is immense hesitation in the market, and installations have dropped off quite significantly. Many developers have been trying to secure First Solar panels, as they would be immune from the tariffs.
                My guess is that the section of the market that will suffer will be the home owner or little array purchaser. The POCO's will still move forward and be able to get good pricing on large systems. Of course they may just pass on any additional expense to their customers which IMO is already being done in states that the POCO's are being forced to install a % of RE.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by SunEagle View Post

                  My guess is that the section of the market that will suffer will be the home owner or little array purchaser. The POCO's will still move forward and be able to get good pricing on large systems. Of course they may just pass on any additional expense to their customers which IMO is already being done in states that the POCO's are being forced to install a % of RE.
                  I disagree. The Suniva proposal would essentially double the current price of modules, which is a large portion of the cost in utility scale installations. Yes, some places where they are working to meet minimum renewable requirements, you'll still see projects, but not as many. There are many places in the country where large utility scale plants are beating out other projects due to cost.

                  In residential, labor accounts for probably 60% of the cost, modules 25% and other parts make up the rest. In utility scale modules account for nearly 50% of the cost.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by emartin00 View Post

                    I disagree. The Suniva proposal would essentially double the current price of modules, which is a large portion of the cost in utility scale installations. Yes, some places where they are working to meet minimum renewable requirements, you'll still see projects, but not as many. There are many places in the country where large utility scale plants are beating out other projects due to cost.

                    In residential, labor accounts for probably 60% of the cost, modules 25% and other parts make up the rest. In utility scale modules account for nearly 50% of the cost.
                    I guess we will have to see what the outcome is.

                    Still if a POCO is regulated by state law to meet X% of all power needing to come from RE then they will have to build the plants. Most will be solar regardless of the price of the panel.

                    But I would say that with the purchase power of a large POCO they will get the price per unit down especially when we are talking about 50MW systems that will require about 160k panels. It will be the little guy that won't be able to justify the higher cost for those off shore panels.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by SunEagle View Post

                      I guess we will have to see what the outcome is.

                      Still if a POCO is regulated by state law to meet X% of all power needing to come from RE then they will have to build the plants. Most will be solar regardless of the price of the panel.

                      But I would say that with the purchase power of a large POCO they will get the price per unit down especially when we are talking about 50MW systems that will require about 160k panels. It will be the little guy that won't be able to justify the higher cost for those off shore panels.
                      if the Suniva trade case goes through, it would put a price floor on imported modules, so it wouldn't matter how big you are.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by JSchnee21 View Post
                        Ummm, I'd love to see more American manufacturing jobs, but remind me again which panels are actually made in the continental United States? Are there any left (that are still solvent)?I would have said SolarWorld, but alas, no longer solvent.

                        EnergySage lists a few: Suniva 2% market share (instigator of the current legislation effort), Sharp? 4% (must be NASA), and a couple others with less than 1% market share.
                        http://news.energysage.com/where-sol...-manufactured/.
                        SolarWorld's us subsidiary is not part of the parent's insolvency, but nevertheless notified workers that it might close its Hillsboro plant, oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2017/05/solarworld_files_notice_of_pot.html
                        And they've had trouble collecting from customers, pamplinmedia.com/ht/117-hillsboro-tribune-news/362858-243218-solarworld-files-lawsuit-against-california-companies

                        If gov't wants to save us solar manufacturing, time is probably short. The feds probably can't react fast enough, they seem more paralyzed than ever.
                        17kw. I like science, but I'm no expert.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by SunEagle View Post
                          Still if a POCO is regulated by state law to meet X% of all power needing to come from RE then they will have to build the plants. Most will be solar regardless of the price of the panel..
                          There lies the problem and it makes Dan avery happy man. Mandating utilities use solar artificially raises electricity prices on a source that does not work. The public has figured it out and is why Democrats and Green Mafia are getting their butts kicked out of office and power.
                          MSEE, PE

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Sunking View Post
                            There lies the problem and it makes Dan avery happy man. Mandating utilities use solar artificially raises electricity prices on a source that does not work. The public has figured it out and is why Democrats and Green Mafia are getting their butts kicked out of office and power.
                            Solar and wind are now the cheapest sources of power out there. Investors and companies who are smart enough to take advantage of that will prosper. Companies who can't will go the way of buggy whip manufacturers. Survival of the fittest and all.
                            Last edited by jflorey2; 07-06-2017, 02:54 PM.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by SunEagle View Post
                              Still if a POCO is regulated by state law to meet X% of all power needing to come from RE then they will have to build the plants. Most will be solar regardless of the price of the panel.
                              States are starting to notice that mandating X% of energy from RE without regard to the load curve can drive energy prices down too far during the day, which hurts merchant generators.
                              See utilitydive.com/news/pressed-duck-clipping-the-curve-with-energy-storage/446179/ for one summary of the state of play.

                              The upshot is, new large solar purchases by utilities are increasingly likely to be balanced with wind or storage.
                              17kw. I like science, but I'm no expert.

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