Spire Corporation’s Spire Solar unit builds turnkey factory assembly lines for crystalline and thin-film photovoltaic (PV) factories. Roger Little, Spire’s CEO, is looking pretty smart right now.
Since early this spring, Little has been predicting a tariff in the 30 percent range would be put on Chinese solar panel imports. On May 17, the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed a 31 percent tariff on panels from China’s biggest panel makers.
U.S. solar manufacturers have been struggling against low-price panels from China. The tariff is intended to prevent what domestic trade groups have described as “dumping” by the Chinese of below-production-cost products. Chinese panel makers are attempting to unload excess inventory even though they are being forced to do so at a loss.
There are two parts to the Commerce Department tariff, one punitive and one preventative. The 61 Chinese companies identified with the dumping will be required to pay the 31 percent tariff. To prevent those companies from shipping into the U.S. under a false front, Chinese panel makers who have not been exporting to the U.S. will be required to pay a 250 percent tariff if they begin doing so.
Some say Chinese manufacturers are likely to get around the tariffs by using a non-Chinese false front. Others fear China will counter-accuse U.S. polysilicon manufacturers of unfair practices before the World Trade Organization.