Last week’s decision by the Commerce Department to impose stiff tariffs on Chinese silicon photovoltaic manufacturers was applauded by SolarWorld and the members of the Coalition for Solar Manufacturing (CASM). Other U.S. companies, including project developers, materials suppliers and manufacturers took a much more wary approach to the news, contending that such fees could negatively impact the nascent industry.
Both Dow Corning and Hemlock Semiconductor, which Dow Corning has a majority stake in, are concerned by the ruling. Dow Corning supplies materials to solar photovoltaics manufacturers across the world, including cell sealants, framing and junction boxes, among others. Hemlock supplies silicon wafers. Both supply materials to Chinese manufacturers. “We don’t feel like anybody wins when trade disputes escalate, and remain very concerned with [the decision],” said Dow and Hemlock spokesperson, Jarrod Erpelding.
The commerce department’s decision comes at a crucial time for the PV manufacturing industry, which is currently suffering from international oversupply with manufacturers struggling to compete amongst each other. Our biggest concern is on the growth of the solar industry as a whole,” Erpelding said. “The decision comes as the cost of solar was coming down, and the decision could be harmful the cost reduction roadmap,” he said.
Other companies, including California-based ecoSolargy, formed the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE), in opposition to CASM. ecoSolargy is a PV manufacturer, project designer and solar installer. “The impact to ecoSolargy as a company is limited, but moreover it is an industry impact, and it is immediate,” said Alan Lee, ecoSolargy’s general manager. ecoSolargy works with manufacturing partners in China, Taiwan and Korea to supply materials for its products.
The company expects the impact of the tariffs will be significant. “ecoSolargy expects an industry wide shake-out, from module pricing to overall project timelines. We will have to make the necessary adjustments to protect the interest of its shareholders,” Lee said.
The drops in solar PV costs coupled with incentive programs have enticed many to go solar. “There is a direct relation between the price of PV and the subsidies. The consumers look at the bottom lines,” Lee said “How soon can I start saving by going solar? How much money do I have to invest? The decision for a home or business owner to go solar has just gotten that much harder to make,” he said.