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Green Building News

Tariffs Could Boost Solar Panel Prices

Chinese tariffs on polysilicon produced in the U.S. could hurt companies here and ultimately raise prices for PV modules

Prices going up? New Chinese tariffs on polysilicon produced in the United States could hurt U.S. producers and lead to higher prices for photovoltaic panels, according to The Washington Post.
Image Credit: Dennis Schroeder/NREL

A tit-for-tat imposition of trade tariffs has pitted China against the U.S. and Europe and could slow the growth of photovoltaic installations worldwide, according to a report in The Washington Post.

China was setting tariffs as high as 57% on U.S.-produced polysilicon, a key ingredient used in the manufacture of PV panels. The U.S. and the European have imposed tariffs of their own on Chinese-made panels, and the combination will not only hurt U.S. polysilicon manufacturers but boost prices worldwide, The Post said.

REC Silicon has a manufacturing plant in Moses Lake, Washington, that employs more than 500 workers. The plant exports 80% of the polysilicon it produces to China, but some customers there are already canceling orders.

In 2012, the U.S. produced 24% of the global supply of polysilicon.

Prices have been falling for more than a decade

The trade dispute may eventually mean higher prices, but the long-term trend has been in the other direction.

NPD Solarbuzz, a solar market research company, reports solar module prices have dropped steadily over the past decade in both the U.S. and Europe.

By March of this year, Solarbuzz reported prices for 329 modules had fallen below $2 per watt. The lowest price for a multi-crystalline module was $1.06 per watt (the module cost is about 35% to 40% of the total installed cost of a PV system).

One Comment

  1. User avater
    Dana Dorsett | | #1

    Panels are no longer the cost driver for rooftop PV
    The subsidies drive PV development in the US far more than panel price, and tariffs on the Chinese dumping companies barely registers, now that panel costs are under half the installed cost of a <10kw rooftop system. the tariff will a bigger issue for utility-scale pv developers, but not deal-breaker.

    The Europeans have already settled with the Chinese on the issue in order to stabilize the EU regional market:

    http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/china-eu-reach-solar-module-trade-dispute-settlement

    The US will probably follow suit (unless it becomes a partisan political football).

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