When President Donald Trump announced Jan. 22 that a 30 percent tariff was to be imposed on solar panels coming into the U.S. from outside suppliers, American companies in the renewable energy sector immediately recognized they had to react quickly and steadfastly to counter the negative fallout that would affect their businesses.
Sunrise Solar Solutions, which services most of the Hudson Valley, immediately responded.
In a media statement, Sunrise Solar, president and CEO, Doug Hertz said, “Although we are disappointed in the President’s decision to impose a 30 percent tariff on solar panels, our commitment to our pricing, our customers and the solar industry is relentless and stronger than ever before. We are passionate about our work and our industry — and we are certain that the solar industry boom will continue on its rise without any pause.”
Industry pundits immediately said the move would handicap a $28 billion industry that relies on parts made abroad for 80% of its supply.
According to Bloomberg, just the threat of tariffs shook solar developers in recent months, with some hoarding panels and others stalling projects in anticipation of higher costs. The Solar Energy Industries Association projected 23,000 job losses this year because of the new tariff in a sector that employed 260,000.
Rand Manasse, Chief Operating Officer, Sunrise Solar Solutions, told The White Plains Examiner in an interview that the company knew the tariff was coming for a while and the news was not a big surprise.
“There are two markets concerned – residential and commercial,” Manasse explained. For Sunrise there will be little to no affect on pricing in the local residential market for solar installations and current projects will continue as planned.
Much of the company’s product is manufactured in Mexico and if necessary that manufacturing capability will be brought to the United States, Manasse said.
Where the tariff hurts is in the low-end market, where additional costs will put American companies in jeopardy and that end of the market could cave, according to Manasse.
A similar situation could affect the corporate installation market, where the projects are larger and more product is needed.
The product, solar panels and the storage cells/batteries, make up only a third of the cost of a solar installation. The rest of the cost is labor, U.S. labor, Manasse emphasized. “I’m worried about those jobs.”
While there are some U.S. companies that might benefit from the tariff, such as Arizona-based panel maker First Solar Inc., it would take two years for a company to grow to make these. “What happens to the rest of the industry when waiting for this to happen?” Manasse asked.
While solar has been growing in the world market for years, American companies have not been competitive in the manufacture of panels and cells. According to Manasse, what instigated the tariff was one American manufacturer going bankrupt, followed by another that filed a lawsuit with the International Trade Commission claiming unfair competition on lower priced product coming in from China.
“My concern is that people will react to the higher costs by deciding not to install solar, and that could set the industry back,” Manasse said.
In Cuomo’s State of the State, he mentioned New York having 50% renewable energy by the year 2030. It will now be more costly to get there, Manasse said. There are still incentives out there to move to renewable, but this tariff seems like a policy to not support renewable energy or that the renewable energy industry is not important. This tariff is not going to help the American solar industry, so what industry will it help? The coal industry?
Despite the setback, Manasse is still positive. I’m passionate about renewable energy and keeping a low carbon footprint, he said.