FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Solar Import Tariff: Pain Without Benefit

The new 30% import tariff just imposed on imported solar panels and solar cells is a protective tariff without benefit.

It will not revive the declining U.S. silicon solar cell industry. It will harm U.S. workers in factories manufacturing solar panels using imported solar cells. It will hurt the rapidly expanding U.S.solar industry, slowing down the rapidly growing adoption of solar across the U.S.economy and costing jobs. It will slow the reduction of green house gases and the replacement of coal and natural gas plants with cheaper, zero pollution energy.

In Jacksonville, Florida the city council has just voted for a $23 million dollar subsidy for Chinese company Jinko Solar to build an 800 worker modular production plant which itself will be subject to the tariff on solar cells. Similarly, the tariff will affect the Tesla giga-factory in Buffalo that uses imported cells.

The tariff will slow, but not stop, the expansion of U.S. solar. According to Green Tech Media there will be a 11% net reduction of solar installations over the next five years. This means the installation of 61.3 gigawatts instead of a projected 68.9 gigawatts, a 7.6 gigawatt shortfall. That’s the bad news, if the projection is correct.

7.6 gigawatts of solar if it displaced fossil fuel generation would save, according to the EPA, 1.64 pounds of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour, or 7.3 million tons of carbon dioxide per year based on New England solar production per megawatt. That’s the projected ecological consequence of the solar tax.

The good news is that solar is now big and rapidly growing. 61.3 megawatts of new solar in next five years is equal to the capacity of 61 one thousand megawatt nuclear plants. Total U.S.nuclear capacity is 99 gigawatts and declining as nuke plants shut down, unable to compete while solar rises.

The 30% tariff on cells or modules is scheduled to decline by 5% a year to 15% in 2021, the last year of the tariff. The first 2.5 gigawatts of imports are exempt, as will be a blend of other specialized modules that are applying for exemption from the tariff as are a number of developing nation producers limited to a total of 9% of imports.

What does this all mean on the ground for solar installations ? A 30% module tariff means about a ten cent per watt increase in solar costs. Average residential solar cost, according to NREL (National Resource Energy Laboratory), in 2017 was $2.80 a watt installed, a 3.6 percent increase in 2018 that will decline to 1.8 percent for typical 5-6 kilowatt systems.

For utility scale solar, huge installations above 10 megawatts or 10,000 kilowatts, the price in 2017 was $1.11/watt. Here, a ten cents a watt increase means a 9 percent increase, declining to 4.5% increase.

The negative effects of the tariff are likely to be felt most strongly in emerging PV markets in Southern and other States with limited financial support and market rules for solar

Mitigating Possibilities

Solar in recent years has been characterized by plunging costs, improved efficiency, and technological innovation. Globally,wind and solar is now competitive in more than thirty countries with fossil fuels without subsidies and represents “an outright compelling investment opportunity with long-term, stable, inflation-protected returns,” according to Michael Drexler, Head of Long Term Investing, Infrastructure and Development at the World Economic Forum. The judgement of big capital.

Current responses to utility scale RFPs for solar have been an astounding less than two cents per kilowatt hour. This is stunning for a zero fuel, zero pollution low maintenance cost energy fuel. Fossil fuels and nukes simply won’t be able to compete.

In addition, there is ongoing technical innovation in all areas of renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well new applications of renewables. It is likely, for example, that new types of solar cells will replace silicon as material of choice such as using perovskite crystals, and further advances in thin film technology.

Giant offshore wind machines can now float and be anchored to the sea floor in deeper water expanding the available off-shore wind resource. A legion of new innovative renewable projects are moving forward. I am working on a pilot installation for a new Swiss design for a megawatt scale vertical axis wind turbine that is quiet, minimizes or eliminates bat and bird kills, minimizes rotor shade, has a small footprint.

As a solar developer, I am developing dual-cropping PV systems on working farms that allow PV on poles or tables, at four foot intervals, to be installed in pasture or fields without significantly reducing agricultural productivity. This system was developed by work in test plots by Prof, Stephen Herbert of the Stockbridge Institute with contractor James Marley.  Www.dual-cropping.com

The market consequences of the tariff may also lead to price reductions by Chinese suppliers, and help accelerate the reduction in cost by racking companies, inverter manufacturers, and in PV installation techniques. For example, Spice Solar, now offers solar panels integrated with racking that can be connected to the roof quickly with a few roof anchors, shipped recently at .60 per watt, a significant price reduction. The tariff may also mean foreign companies, as Jinko did in Jacksonville, building American based factories.

Tariff or not, now’s the time for us all to embrace the economic, ecological and social benefits of building a secure and prosperous efficient renewable energy future. Our pursuit of ecological economic growth and our democratic action on all levels will shape the emergence of a renewable energy future and our escape from ecological calamity by making economic growth mean ecological improvement and building step by step a prosperous ecological civilization.

More articles by:
June 20, 2018
Bill Hackwell
Unprecedented Cruelty Against Immigrants and Their Children
Paul Atwood
“What? You Think We’re So Innocent?”
Nicola Perugini
The Palestinian Tipping Point
K.J. Noh
Destiny and Daring: South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s Impossible Journey Towards Peace
Gary Leupp
Jeff Sessions and St. Paul’s Clear and Wise Commands
M. G. Piety
On Speaking Small Truths to Power
Dave Lindorff
Some Straight Talk for Younger People on Social Security (and Medicare too)
George Wuerthner
The Public Value of Forests as Carbon Reserves
CJ Hopkins
Confession of a Putin-Nazi Denialist
David Schultz
Less Than Fundamental:  the Myth of Voting Rights in America
Rohullah Naderi
The West’s Over-Publicized Development Achievements in Afghanistan 
Dan Bacher
California Lacks Real Marine Protection as Offshore Drilling Expands in State Waters
Lori Hanson – Miguel Gomez
The Students of Nicaragua’s April Uprising
Russell Mokhiber
Are Corporations Are Behind Frivolous Lawsuits Against Corporations?
Michael Welton
Infusing Civil Society With Hope for a Better World
June 19, 2018
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
We Can Thank Top Union Officials for Trump
Lawrence Davidson
The Republican Party Falls Apart, the Democrats Get Stuck
Sheldon Richman
Trump, North Korea, and Iran
Richard Rubenstein
Trump the (Shakespearean) Fool: a New Look at the Dynamics of Trumpism
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Protect Immigrant Rights; End the Crises That Drive Migration
Gary Leupp
Norway: Just Withdraw From NATO
Kristine Mattis
Nerd Culture, Adultolescence, and the Abdication of Social Priorities
Mike Garrity
The Forest Service Should Not be Above the Law
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Activism And Smears Masquerade As Journalism: From Seralini To Jairam Ramesh, Aruna Rodrigues Puts The Record Straight
Doug Rawlings
Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?
Kenneth Surin
2018 Electioneering in Appalachian Virginia
Nino Pagliccia
Chrystia Freeland Fails to See the Emerging Multipolar World
John Forte
Stuart Hall and Us
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail