After announcing 30% tariffs on all imported c-Si solar panels in January, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) will officially exclude certain products from the import duties starting Sept. 19, 2018.
Officially excluded from the 30% solar panel tariffs:
- 45-W off-grid solar panels
- 4-W solar panels
- 60-W panels
- 120-W flexible and semi-flexible panels used for motor vehicles and boats
- 90-W frameless solar panels in colors other than black or blue
- IBC and busbar-less solar cells
- IBC and busbar-less solar panels
- modules using only U.S.-made solar cells
The obvious winner in this situation is SunPower, which, although a U.S. company, manufactures/assembles its interdigitated back contact (IBC) modules in the Philippines and Mexico.
“With today’s decision that SunPower’s highly differentiated IBC cells and modules are excluded from tariffs, we are able to turn the page,” said SunPower Chairman and CEO Tom Werner. “SunPower can now fully focus our resources to deliver the best solar solutions to our customers, develop the next wave of solar technology through American research and development and invest in American solar manufacturing.”
The January solar tariff decision kicked off a trade battle between the United States and mainly China that had its latest development just yesterday with new 10% duties on imported Chinese goods, including solar inverters and AC modules. The initial 30% tariffs on solar panels affect imports from all foreign countries, and Chinese solar panels were hit with an additional 25% tariff last month.
USTR received over 50 requests for exemption from the 30% panel tariffs, some more serious than others. SunPower provided the most documentation to support exemption of its IBC solar cells used in high-efficiency modules. BayWa r.e. Solar Systems jointly filed with LG Electronics USA to request exclusion of all IBC solar modules, since LG and SunPower’s IBC modules were “functionally identical.”
The difference between SunPower and LG’s IBC modules (as stated by LG in USTR documents) is that SunPower uses copper plating to connect the interdigitated metal fingers while LG uses copper ribbons.
The official exclusion is for IBC panels with “more than 100 interdigitated fingers of tin-coated solid copper adhered to the back of the cell.” The phrase “tin-coated solid copper” is copied from SunPower’s exclusion request document. The “solid copper” reference may be why SunPower receives the tariff exclusion while LG does not.
SunPower announced in April it would acquire Oregon-based SolarWorld, in what seemed to be an increased effort to show the U.S. government that it is all-in on American manufacturing. The acquisition should be completed before the end of the year. Although its high efficiency panels are now excluded from the tariffs, SunPower still plans to produce its own modules in the Oregon plant, which was previously rated at over 500-MW capacity.
“SunPower’s 33 years of technology innovation and solar industry leadership are an integral part of the story around America’s energy evolution,” Werner said. “We appreciate the Administration’s thorough review and consideration on this matter and believe this outcome supports common goals of technology innovation, economic prosperity, energy independence and U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace.”
LG also announced it would build its own 500-MW solar panel facility in Alabama to avoid some of the tariffs. LG is a South Korean company but has a significant presence in the U.S. residential and commercial markets.
We’ve been covering the affects of the solar panel tariffs since the beginning. Check out our recent news reports here, including an extended feature on foreign manufacturers setting up shop in the United States.
This story was updated 09/21/18 with more accurate information on LG and SunPower’s IBC module manufacturing processes.
Glenn Mills says
Does anyone know if the 2.5GW initial exemption limit has been reached yet?
Global Solar Guy says
Most common solar panel facilities are working with robots and machines that do the work.
Of course there are jobs on the line making sure that nothing goes wrong but making solar panels is nothing like building an automobile…which are also more automated then in the past. I have seen a solar module plant in China that had 2 people working in the manufacturing workshop as the machines did the work. There were more people in office area then on the workshop floor.
To be fair, china invested heavily in solar to build up the supply chain. They also gave subsidies to companies to help them grow faster. America could have done something similar but didn’t….and still ins’t!!!! Blocking cheaper products that are well made (in the case of solar modules) is not helping the greater american population.
Solar companies in American aren’t competitive because the components also have steep tariffs. Which at makes american solar panels more expensive than the imports.
So Trump owns stock in that company or what?
Sunpower made an intelligent move to become directly involved in solar Made in USA by purchasing SolarWorld Americas.
Trump is not the bogeyman, the jobs he saves may be your kid’s.
Trump is heavily invested in coal. If this influenced his decision to impose a tariff on solar panels he is not only stupid but a criminal too.
The ending trade war caused by trump’s ignorance oil dance is costing us billions and the direct cause of crippling California farmers that exported almonds, pistachios and numerous other crops that had been stable for decades.
Trump is not a job creator unless your kids work in a coal mine. The bipartisan system will be the downfall of our country. Supporting a fascist like trump because your Republican is ignorant and malicous.
yeah such a good move Mike considering they are going out of business at the end of Q-4 and no longer will be manufacturing panels.
The truth says
Three years later. Not a single American job created by this tarriff. Trump loves coal. The lives he takes by polluting the planet WILL be your children’s…and their children…and on and on.
Trump’s stupidity harmed every sector of the economy. So much for being an economic hero. Eff the cheetoh.
Mary Taylor says
I just went solar in July But my power bill is still 137.00 month plus the 130.00 s month toworb my solar payment.I don’t fill like I am shaven the money that the solar company promoted
You must store the power, cause you are giving it away to the power company to sell to others
Jonathan Arzet says
In order to get the best results in solar systems you need to get a full service. With that bein said, that in tells getting an energy analysis, shading analysis and your solar design based on how much do you want to save on your electric bill. Then you need a financial analysis to find out how much money you are going to pay on your solar loan monthly. So there are a few factors that you might want to check on your system.
What is your production vs consumption
What size is your system
How much does your system cover from your electric bill