Saving Solar: Companies find creative ways to bypass tariffs


In this file photo, Solar Tech Joshua Valdez, left, and Senior Plant ManagerTim Wisdom walk past solar panels and at a Pacific Gas and Electric Solar Plant, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Vacaville, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

North America’s largest solar power convention is taking place in Anaheim, California this week. It comes at a time when the industry is dealing with trade tensions between Washington and Beijing. China is the biggest exporter of solar panels to the U.S., and it’s feeling a lot of the heat from the tit-for-tat tariffs. 

Buyers and sellers in the solar energy industry are forced to come up with new strategies to cope with the changing business landscape.

CGTN’s May Lee filed this report from the convention.

More than 20,000 people from around the world made their way to the city of Anaheim this week with one thing on their minds: solar power and how to make more of it.

However, tariffs imposed on solar imports by U.S. President Donald Trump are casting a shadow over many vendors, service providers, and manufacturers.

“With certain places, the components are really the issue because they’re all being sourced in China,” Conference Attendee Jason Asuncion said. “We’re seeing anywhere from 15 to 20-percent increase on pricing, and for a lot of companies, they can’t bite the bullet on that and incur the cost.”

In this Oct. 16, 2015 file photo a solar panel is installed on the roof of the Old Governor’s Mansion State Historic Park in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Chinese companies are feeling the brunt of the tariffs as the trade war between the U.S. and China continues to ramp up. The friction is pushing some Chinese companies to find new ways to reduce tariffs and other obstacles.

“The U.S. market is very important to us, so right now we’re developing the business here,” Yuanhui Wang of Power China said. “We’re looking for local partners in engineering, design and low cost subcontractors for construction.”

Other Chinese companies like Longi, the world’s leading manufacturer of mono-crystalline solar modules, are manufacturing products elsewhere, where the tariff burden is lower.

“We have most of our manufacturing capacity located in China, but for the U.S. because of the tariff, we have set up a factory in Malaysia.” says Hongbin Fang of Longi Solar. 

HT-SAAE, a manufacturer of Photo-voltaic solar panels, stayed ahead of the tariffs by building a facility in Turkey, three years ago. There, exports to the U.S. are free of any tax. and the company has even bigger plans.

This April 20, 2011, file photo, shows some of the 30,000 solar panels that make up the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s new 2-megawatt photovoltaic array in Albuquerque, N.M. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

“Our American market this year increased huge, so we decided to build a new factory in America” said Robin Xi of HT-SAAE. “We can supply to customer from Turkey, but also from America. It will be a win-win for our company to our customers.”

That may be the case for HT-SAAE, but for there’s a lot more uncertainty for many others in the solar industry.

Even so, there’s one thing that most in the solar industry agree with is that regardless of policies, trade wars, and other obstacles, the short-term pain is worth the long-term gain.

As one Chinese solar executive told CGTN, the train has left the station, so there’s no turning back on solar energy now.