Thu, 01/19/2012 - 00:01 EDT - NPR - National Public Radio (Business News)
U.S.-based solar panel manufacturers say inexpensive panels from China are hurting their business and want a tariff slapped on the imports. But other parts of the industry, such as installers, say the cheaper panels are driving a solar power boom in the U.S.» E-Mail This» Add to Del.icio.us
While the solar industry is going through something of a rough patch in the United States, the sun still shines in other parts of the world – a strong indication that better days are ahead for this vital source of clean power.
Germany’s Solar Boom
The European Commission agreed to impose punitive import duties on solar panels from China in a move to guard against what it sees as dumping of cheap goods in Europe, prompting a cautious response from Beijing which called for further dialogue.
EU commissioners backed EU Trade Chief Karel De Gucht’s proposal to levy the provisional duties by June 6 and make Chinese solar exports less attractive, two officials said.
Wolf Richter www.testosteronepit.com www.amazon.com/author/wolfrichter The solar-panel industry, once fattened by taxpayer subsidies and false hopes, has been in a death spiral around the world. In the US, a slew of photovoltaic standouts like Solyndra went under, taking billions of subsidies and investor capital with them. In Germany, it has been just as brutal. Even large companies are licking their wounds.
The failure of solar developers to deliver on planned projects in Japan will cost the country’s utilities close to US$3.5-billion annually in additional coal and gas imports to generate power.
Japan’s government banked on solar power to help meet the shortfall in electricity supply after the Fukushima disaster in 2011 shattered public confidence in nuclear energy. The country’s reactors are shut while the government struggles to convince the population the plants are safe to restart.
Solar panels were cheaper than wind turbines for the first time last year in certain markets, per unit of capacity, and are rapidly closing a remaining gap in the full cost of power generation.
Until now, wind power has been the leading low-carbon alternative to oil, coal and gas, outside large niche markets such as Germany, which has seen a huge ramp-up in installed solar.
But that could change, with deep implications for the health of both industries if one substitutes the other.
When I first wrote about last week's preliminary decision by the US Department of Commerce to impose big anti-dumping duties on imports of Chinese solar panels, I noted (among other things) that any final duties probably wouldn't lead to a long-term increase in US solar manufacturing but instead would simply cause Chinese production to move to other low-cost destinations (and, of course, raise US prices).
The U.S. Commerce Department announced tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels on Tuesday that it said had benefited from unfair subsidies by Beijing. The preliminary ruling came in response to a complaint from SolarWorld Industries America, a U.S. manufacturer that is a subsidiary of Germany's SolarWorld. The tariffs were lower than many analysts had predicted, however, boosting shares of Chinese solar-panel makers in Tuesday's trading. China's Yingli Green Energy closed up 12%, while Suntech Power was up 14% and Trina Solar finished up 8%. On the flip side, shares of U.S.
I've often noted how trade disputes have a habit of reproducing in other jurisdictions, and with the United States and China duking it out over trade in solar panels and other "green" technologies, it was only a matter of time before other countries got into the mix. But even I'm a little surprised at just how fast India has gotten involved: