Approximately 80% of solar panels in the US are made overseas in countries such as China, South Korea, and India. Until now, US solar companies have not been able to compete with overseas prices, which are much lower due to the abundance of cheaper materials and labor. But now these foreign solar panels are being subjected to a 30% tariff – a move that some say is helping to cripple the renewable energy industry. A recent article in TIME Magazine sheds some light on the issue.
While many renewable energy advocates are crying foul, a local solar company is preparing to do business as usual. In fact, Buffalo Solar Solutions Inc. is in the process of doubling their size of their offices in the midst of the tariff imposition.
“The sky is not falling as a result of this new tariff on imported solar panels,” said Jeremy McCool, commercial development manager at Buffalo Solar Solutions. “The tariff is really just part of an ongoing trade war with China. While it will have an impact on the solar industry overall, the impact on the average Western New York homeowner turning to solar won’t be significant. The industry has been figuring out ways to mitigate this for almost a year now, such as buying direct from manufacturers and in larger quantities.”
According to the team at Buffalo Solar Solutions, there’s even more upside to the story. Since the announcement of the tariff, a major Chinese solar company has announced that it intends to build a production plant in Florida.
“The announcement of the new Chinese solar plant in Florida, with hundreds of new jobs, is huge,” added McCool. “If other foreign manufacturers start producing here, it will be a game-changer for solar. So, the sky is not falling, prices won’t skyrocket and U.S. solar panel manufacturers have a fresh shot at global competition.”
The tariff will hit hardest in 2018, as it rolls out at a steep 30%. Each year after that, it will decrease by 5%, until is reaches a 15% threshold.
“Solar panels only make up approximately 25 percent of the overall price of a solar project,” added Buffalo Solar Solutions owner Tyler Uebelhoer. “It’s not the end of the world because it’s not a tariff on the entire solar operation, just one part of it. For homeowners investing in solar, they’re probably only looking at a $5 to $10 increase in their monthly financing payment. That’s not so bad when you compare it to the 11 percent rate increase for electricity that’s coming for National Grid customers over the next three years.”
Even though WNY homeowners will see a slight increase in solar panel costs, they can also offset costs via federal and state tax credits, according to the team at Buffalo Solar Solutions.
“Fortunately, our company is uniquely positioned to be on the low end of the price increase scale,” said Uebelhoer. “Because of our outstanding partnership with our suppliers, any price increases for the consumer will be minimal.”