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US solar industry in sudden crisis, as China accusations fly

THE US SOLAR POWER industry’s activities have ground to a sudden halt as the US Commerce Department started looking for possible China links. More than 300 large scale solar panel implementations across America have been frozen—and this includes some forest-sized projects.

“Tens of billions of dollars, and tens of thousands of jobs are at risk,” the New York Times warned. The US will also fall further back on its environmental targets, too.

The freeze risks US business relationships with other Asian nations and is causing outrage among green campaigners and the “renewable energy” companies they support.

What has gone wrong?

It’s a convoluted story. China became the world leader in solar panel production soon after the turn of the century after years of investment. Ten years ago, the US administration took fright at China’s success in producing cheap, popular, exportable renewables and added steep tariffs to make them unaffordable. The Barack Obama administration was honest about their motives: they admitted their 2012 move was done to prevent China dominating the world in solar panel production, and provide some protectionist help for US companies in the same field.

However, what actually happened is that most US firms then started importing solar panels and associated equipment from other Asian nations. Today, more than 80 per cent of US solar power equipment comes from southeast Asia, mainly from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.


The new problem is that an allegation was made by one US manufacturer that some of the products from east or southeast Asia may be made by overseas subsidiaries of Chinese firms, and some of the components may have originated in China.

The US Commerce Department has let it be known that they are doing an investigation and the same high tariffs that kept Chinese solar panels out may hit other solar panel companies too. Payments could be demanded retroactively.

Some of the cancelled projects are as big as forests. Photo by Michael Förtsch on Unsplash

More than 300 solar projects in the United States, including a 60-square-kilometer installation in Vermont, have been delayed or cancelled in recent weeks.

Asian solar manufacturers are as horrified as US dealers in the trade. Even the Chinese solar power specialist firm Trina Solar, who is not directly involved in the conflict, are calling for the freeze to end, calling on the Biden administration to “end this disastrous investigation before its [renewables target] agenda is put out of reach”.

There’s a very real concern that the most serious crisis in the history of solar power in the United States is motived by needless hostility, and is completely unnecessary.

“Officials have not yet found any evidence of trade violations,” the New York Times reported.

Image at the top shows solar panels on rooftops in Hawaii, picture by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

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