Senators Cory Gardner (CO) and Dean Heller (NV) signed onto a letter with six of their Republican Senate colleagues asking the Trump Administration to exclude utility scale solar panels from recent trade actions designed to help U.S. manufacturers against unfair competition from foreign solar panel imports. The letter sent to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Secretary Rick Perry and Secretary Wilbur Ross, points out that the President’s directive on the solar tariff allows for exemptions to be made when unintended consequences would result that lower domestic economic growth.
In this case, the Senators are correctly calling for an exemption of 72 cell, 1500 volt utility scale solar panels because the domestic market is not able to meet the booming demand for these panels. Utility scale solar projects required more than 10,000 MW of these panels in 2016, however, that same year the U.S. domestic market only produced 550 MW of 72 cell modules. To further complicate the situation, of these domestically produced 72 cell panels, all were of the 1,000 volt variety for commercial and residential applications which yield a higher margin than the 1,500 volt type that utility scale solar requires. It’s clear that the U.S. domestic market will not be able to respond fast enough to meet the demand for utility scale modules putting this segment of the industry and the tens of thousands of American jobs associated with it in jeopardy.
Even though these specific solar modules are not manufactured in the United States, the domestic solar supply chain and workforce benefits and relies on the deployment of these panels. The letter highlights the fact that the President’s directive allows for “benefit[s] or advantage[s] to the long-term competitiveness of the solar manufacturing supply chain” to be taken into consideration when granting a product exclusion. The Senators conclude their request by arguing that:
The exclusion of 72-cell, 1500 volt solar panels from the safeguard measure will preserve tens of thousands of existing solar manufacturing and development jobs, foster market expansion, and allow the U.S. to once again fairly compete in the global marketplace for energy production technologies. Sensible product exclusions will uphold the integrity of the safeguard measures intended to facilitate positive adjustment to competition from imports of certain crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells.
The Western Way supports this common sense request that will save U.S. jobs and increase the economic impact of utility scale solar projects across the West.