SunPower plans to stop United States expansion due to Trump tariff

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Their efforts failed, with Trump announcing the tariffs on solar panels and modules (and some washing machines) this week. It's hard to tell why he's doing this.

"Government tariffs will increase the cost of solar and depress demand, which will reduce the orders we're getting and cost manufacturing workers their jobs", said Bill Vietas, president of RBI Solar, a company that designs and installs solar panel mounting systems.

But whatever the reason, the consequences probably won't be severe.

"If you can imagine, if there's a feeling that a tariff is coming, then everybody wanted to buy up the existing inventory that was already here pre-tariff".

Earlier this week US President Donald Trump approved a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels-particularly those from China. "On top of this, the tariffs will cause collateral damage by slowing down the installation of solar panels in the United States, destroying more jobs than they create and provoking trade disputes and retaliation".

Reaction to tariffs on solar panel.

About 95 percent of the materials for solar power are imported from countries like Malaysia and South Korea, so the 30 percent tariff is a big hit to the domestic manufacturers, suppliers, and installers. "Who will notice this, though, is the Chinese manufacturers who have been ripping us off".

For the Moorhead Solar Garden, it depends on how the numbers fall into place.

SunPower has argued that its premium-priced panels, which are among the most efficient in the industry at transforming sunlight into electricity, should receive an exemption from the tariffs because their unique technology can not be compared with that of more conventional models, including those made by the companies that sought the tariffs, Suniva and SolarWorld.

The news is receiving mixed reactions from solar companies across Oregon.

This kind of trade law flouting by China is exactly what is ravaging the American aluminum and steel industries.

Another advantage that the solar sector has over other industries is that the wage is apparently higher than the national average. Instead, they might actually discourage domestic investments in innovation, crucial to an American solar manufacturing revival. Those pushed may push back, as the Canadians did when Boeing got the federal government to slap duties on Bombardier planes sold in the United States.

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Employees at REC Silicon recently signed a letter asking the Trump administration to negotiate some sort of comprehensive deal with China that settles all parts of the solar cell-polysilicon dispute. Yet by slowing this process, solar tariffs could postpone the day when U.S. manufacturing comes back into its own.

"In the solar case, the Chinese have strategically attacked this industry, taken the whole thing away in less than a decade ... At the end of the day, the solar industry is going to be around", Moyer said.

Even still, the administration's decision is wrong, and on a couple of counts.

Trump added that the tariffs will "create jobs in America for Americans".

It might not have looked like an uneventful year here in the Northwest, which found itself ensnared in multiple trade disputes involving Northwest products, companies and industries: Softwood lumber.

However, Duke said it will "continue to invest in this resource" because "our customers expect solar to be a key component of an affordable and clean energy generation mix".

Solar panels installed by SunPeak on Ale Asylum.

The Trump administration's solar tariff will be more challenging for utility-scale solar projects than for residential, because the modules account for a larger share of the total cost of large projects.

History bears this out.

The solar industry is strongest on the Pacific Coast, across the Southwest, Mountain West and East Coast. Although the tariffs were smaller than manufacturers had sought, some reckon they might knock back recent price declines by several years.

What are the biggest challenges that USA solar companies face today?

Noah Smith is a Bloomberg View columnist. - Ed.

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