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Home solar prices to increase slightly with Trump’s 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels

January 24, 2018 GMT

Home solar prices to increase slightly with Trump’s 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels

CLEVELAND -- President Trump’s decision to impose a four-year 30 percent tariff on the price of foreign-made solar panels could lead to slight increases in the price of residential and commercial solar systems.

“The total price of the a solar system is not going to increase by 30 percent, said Alan Frasz, president and principal owner of Cleveland-based Dovetail Solar and Wind.

“The general feeling is that solar module prices will increase by 10 cents to 15 cents a watt for non-U.S. modules. But the solar panel is only one part of the system,” he said.

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Geoff Greenfield, president and founder of Athens-based Third Sun Solar, agreed.

“The tariff will only be on the modules themselves, and the impact to most projects will be less than 5 percent,” he wrote in a memo to customers.

He added that some of the price increase have already been added to the cost of the panels by suppliers.

Despite the outcry from the solar industry’s lobbying organizations, neither Frasz nor Greenfield see the sky falling because of the tariff.

“The tariff will definitely impact the industry,” said Frasz. “It will grow less than it would have and it will make it more difficult to get some projects done where the customer is more sensitive to the length of the payback.”

“Outside of the very large-scale utility solar markets where the fate of projects hang on every penny, we still believe 2018 will be one of the biggest years in solar in spite of this ridiculous tariff,” wrot Greenfield. “Panel prices will still be less expensive than they were five years ago.”

The Washington, D.C.-based Solar Energy Industries Association this week declared that the tariff will lead to the loss of 23,000 jobs in manufacturing and tens of thousands of other jobs.

The tariffs “will create a crisis in a part of our economy that has been thriving, which will ultimately cost tens of thousands of hard-working, blue-collar Americans their jobs,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s President and CEO, in a prepared statement.

According to the association, there were 38,000 U.S. solar manufacturing jobs in 2016, but only 2,000 jobs were connected with the making of solar modules and solar panels. The other 36.000 people made other components used to install a solar array.

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The tariff is the result of complaints filed last year by two foreign-owned companies that manufactured solar panels in the United States and found they could not compete with the price of panels made in Europe and the Far East.

Phoenix-based First Solar, which began in Perrysburg, Ohio, and which still manufacturers solar panels there, had no comment on the tariff.

But the company is not even directly affected by the tariff because it manufacturers “thin film” solar modules rather than crystalline poly-silicon panels that other manufacturers produce.

First Solar imports many of its panels from a plant it built in Malaysia.

The only other Ohio solar panel factory closed after state regulators refused to allow American Electric Power to buy all of the power from the proposed 49.9 megawatt solar farm it proposed. Turning Point was to have been a 500-acre solar farm near Zanesville on land once strip-mined for coal. AEP wanted to put the cost of the project into is customer rate base, and might have been able to had it been able to prove the customers really needed the extra power.

Isofoton, a Spanish manufacturer of silicon-based solar panels, had established a headquarters in Napoleon, Ohio, near Toledo, in 2011 to manufacture 225,000 panels for the project. Isofoton left the state when AEP had to shelve the Turning Point project in 2013.

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