Is This The First Sign Of A US-Chinese Solar War?

Authored by Gregory Brew via,

After a banner year for solar power installation in the United States, reports on the progress of solar power in the first quarter of 2017 have industry advocates hopeful that renewable energy will continue to grow throughout the year, despite competition from fossil fuels, U.S. government support for traditional energy sources and resistance towards cheap imported solar panels by domestic manufacturers.

The first months of 2017 saw 2 gigawatts of photovoltaic panels added, continuing a six-quarter streak and a huge boost in solar installations that came at the end of 2016, when more than 6 GWs were installed. The growth in Q1 of 2017 marks a slight decrease of 2 percent from the level last year, but it’s still indicative of an overall growth trend, as total additions have increased year on year since 2012, according to the Solar Market Insight Report.

Out of the 2 GWs added, about a quarter came in the form of rooftop panels added in the households segment, while utilities added the bulk of new production. The non-residential solar market has increased 29 percent year-on-year.

The growth comes as costs continue to fall. The report from the Solar Energy Industries Association indicated that for the first time, utility-scale costs for power fell below $1/Watt. Solar power accounted for 30 percent of total electricity capacity added in Q1, while natural gas came in at 41 percent and wind power 27 percent.

Solar now accounts for about 2 percent of total electricity generation in the U.S., behind wind power at 6 percent and natural gas at 34 percent.

Most of the projects currently adding new solar capacity were planned some years ago, and there is some speculation that continued growth in solar power will slow due to policies undertaken by the Trump Administration, a strong advocate for conventional oil and gas. Yet the SEIA estimates that 12.6 GWs of solar power will be added in 2017, a slight decrease from 2016 but a strong indicator of growth nonetheless.

While there is wariness on the part of the industry towards the attitude of the Trump Administration, including its decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement, the mood continues to be cautiously optimistic, according to a report from the Washington Post.

A potential challenge could come in the form of federal action against important solar panels.

Suniva, an Atlanta-based solar power manufacturer, has argued that imported panels at rock-bottom prices has cut into its bottom line and forced it to lay off hundreds of workers. In late May the U.S. government agreed to hear Suniva’s claims and is now mulling the possibility of a tariff on imported solar panels and modules.

Suniva filed for bankruptcy in April, and shortly thereafter applied for relief against imported competition. Such applications, filed under Section 201 of the 1974 Trade Act, are quite rare, yet the federal government has already indicated its willingness to hear the case. Should the International Trade Commission rule in favor of Suniva, prices on solar panels would return to 2012 levels, rendering many planned projects uneconomic and potentially dooming the growth of solar power in the United States.

The SEIA has come out against the case. The ITC has determined that Suniva’s grievances are representative of the entire solar industry, but SEIA has argued that this is not the case and that a ruling in Suniva’s favor would be disastrous for solar power.

A second manufacturer, SolarWorld, has joined Suniva in requesting a federal investigation of solar panel imports. Meanwhile, SQN Capital Management, Suniva’s chief creditor, has hinted that a buy-out of the company’s assets by Chinese solar panel manufacturers would settle the issue, allowing the company to rehire its former employees and remain in business.

The U.S. has alerted the World Trade Organization that it is considering tariffs against imported solar panels, with a ruling from the ITC likely to come by November 2017.

Such an act would be chiefly aimed at China, which leads the world in solar panel production and exports, and it would be an aggressive move from a federal government which has thus far utilized both protectionist rhetoric and attitudes decidedly hostile towards renewable energy.

It will take some months before the Suniva dispute has any impact. In the meantime, solar power will continue to grow in the United States, driven by low cost, high demand and rising interest in renewable energy.


Jubal Early The Gray Man Tue, 06/13/2017 - 12:27 Permalink

If you are going to go off thread then at least don't bogart the first comment. sheesh.This is all to get Elon Musk to re-join the Trump technology panel.  Trump would claim its for jobs, but its not.  Its for rich jews, like everyone Trump associates with.  You couldn't be closer to the tribe without being a member of it than Trump.

In reply to by The Gray Man

kw2012 The Gray Man Tue, 06/13/2017 - 13:14 Permalink

Snowflakes and millenials have no survival skills. THey are lost without their cellphones. Most couldn't catch a fish if it was tossed to them. And they love to live in high density city centers. Even if you are a hunter but have little land, you are still in trouble. There are 350 million people in the country. THere are 30 million deer. Deer would disappear in months. Gangs would form to fight for food, protection etc... Once again, millenials would be SOL as they hate guns and they cry if you confront them. Disease will become rampant as all garbage services stop. Cities will become infested with diseased rates and the plague will reappear. it goes on and on.

In reply to by The Gray Man

mary mary Tue, 06/13/2017 - 12:06 Permalink

Chambers of Commerce always do everything they possibly can to strangle every Free Market they possibly can.  And then they wave flags and erect signs that say, "Defending Freedom".

BillyBass Tue, 06/13/2017 - 12:15 Permalink

First sign of a solar war?  The US\China solar war started about 6 years ago when China dialed up the production of panels (made at a loss) to flood the market.  This wiped out a big chunk of fledgling US solar companies.  

MEFOBILLS BillyBass Tue, 06/13/2017 - 12:40 Permalink

The U.S. invented solar panels.  DARPA used your tax dollars and funneled it into university research.  It wasn't that long ago, where pretty much all solar panel activity was in the U.S.  U.S. labor benefited from this investment spending by government.  This virtuous cycle of spending yielding benefit in U.S. economy has been short-circuited.What went wrong?The wall street/China gambit is what.  Wall street started Greenmailing american industry to move to China.  Either move to China or we will use your pensions and your assetts, to buy you out.  Yes, it is possible to hypohtecate new bank credit into existence using a companies assets.  The kicker is that the greenmailer doesn't own anything, just the prospect of taking the company in a hostile financial deal.Way to go American finance, you are the mensch!  China is in on the gambit.  They steal American technology, with counterfeiting - using the same people that work in American factories, to then copycat in China factories at night.  American patrimony, which was invented and created over decades, with much toil and effort by American genius, is given away for wage arbitrage today.  The flows of wage arbitrage then are taken to fund wall street gambit, and China gets to ramp up  technology curve rapidly.  You don't think the China miracle was all their doing, now do you?China also has STATE BANKS.  They specifically targeted the Solar Industry.  China made loans to solar companies in the U.S., to then move to China and set up shop.  The best of the companies are allowed to compete, and the laggards are pruned.  China state banks then rip up the debt instrument.  In effect, China steals  solar industry using debt free money, channeled at U.S. industry they considered strategic.Pretty damn smart and devious.  But, the U.S. cannot protect itself because it doesn't have sovereign money.  The U.S. has Federal Reserve Notes, which are part of an international private banking corporate syndicate.  This syndicate thinks they are going to infiltrate China, like they did under  British ((Sasoons)).  Read back to the smart and devious part... it won't happen.  China is playing their own game, and rope-a-doping the West.Everytime you buy a Chinese panel, think about the gambit and  invisible hands deep into your pockets, practically caressing your testicles.  China now is a low cost producer, and acquried initial U.S. technology for cheap.

In reply to by BillyBass

silverer Tue, 06/13/2017 - 12:36 Permalink

WTF? Didn't Obama already stick a 35% tax on Chinese panels about three or four years ago? It was to "protect" US workers. This whole thing is TOTAL bullshit. They don't want you to have solar panels on your house. They don't want to buy the excess power you produce from those panels. If you throw a line over the fence to your neighbor, they'll stick your sorry ass in jail. The US can NEVER produce panels competitively. Let's just swallow that down and accept it. We should let the Chinese manufacture and sell all the subsidized panels they can bring to the US, so consumers can afford them, and get our asses off foreign oil. Obviously, there is a PROTECTION racket in place for the solar industry AND for fossil fuels. EVERY participant gets to fleece the US consumer. If this CO2 thing is not BULLSHIT, then it should be a 24/7 priority to get panels on every roof in the USA. PAY THE US SOLAR WORKERS TO STAY HOME. It won't cost NEARLY AS MUCH as the CO2 damage they claim which is in "the billions". This is all TOTAL bullshit. Anyone buying into it is a fool x10.

Pliskin Tue, 06/13/2017 - 12:20 Permalink

Sanctions and tariffs are for pussies who are scared to fight a REAL war.Oh, I see congress has just passed a bill to sanction Russia some more, ergo = pussies.The U.S is like someone lost at sea 100s of miles from shore, desperately flapping their arms in hope of survival, because they've got fuck all left in the tank.Glug, glug, glug!

roisaber Tue, 06/13/2017 - 12:39 Permalink

The first US-Chinese Solar War was fought in AD 2217 and lasted seven years. Casualties were in the billions, with several off-planet colonies totally destroyed and three trillion tons of military equipment wrecked.

Falling Down Tue, 06/13/2017 - 13:13 Permalink

Judging by the career site at Tesla, SolarCity in Buffalo is nowhere close to starting production. No production positions are listed. What a joke, but Musk will probably get trade protections, anyway.Virtually none of the production equipment in the facility was sourced in the U.S. or Canada.

FoggyWorld Falling Down Tue, 06/13/2017 - 19:13 Permalink

His solar roofing is beautiful but at his prices, next to no one in the world can afford them  And the trick of his design can be ripped off by anyone so ultimately someone smart will get this into the general market place.   But he isn't the only one using that technology and it's just another of his unicorn dreams that we no doubt are subsidizing.

In reply to by Falling Down

Dickweed Wang Tue, 06/13/2017 - 13:38 Permalink

Should the International Trade Commission rule in favor of Suniva, prices on solar panels would return to 2012 levels . . . Which is about 30% higher than the costs of today's panels and cells . . . thanks a lot .gov for "helping" out.  Now with solar starting to get to the point where I can actually afford it they want to jack the prices up  . . . for the benefit of one company.

south40_dreams Tue, 06/13/2017 - 13:54 Permalink

That headline is going to trigger the snowflakes. They'll think it's a battle over who gets to control the sun. They're worried sick about who'll end up controlling the weather

sinbad2 Tue, 06/13/2017 - 20:01 Permalink

Back in the 1880's, the US shelled Korea until the Koreans agreed to buy American products.Today it's the US that is trying to stop free trade.It's a pity the US didn't remember the old saying"Be nice to those you meet on the way up because you will meet them on the way down."