International Trade Dispute Could Cast Shade on Solar Industry

The co-complainants are claiming that foreign panel manufacturers have been dumping their products - selling goods at or below cost in order to drive out the competition in an effort to gain market share - into the U.S.

If the ITC decides that dumping has occurred, it will recommend to the President to impose a tariff on solar panels. This could have major ramifications throughout the solar industry. Some companies are, understandably, petitioning against the ITC to impose a tariff. These companies rely on cheap, imported materials for their solar installations and could be significantly hurt by an increase in panel prices.

One company, however, stands apart in this dispute - Green Solar Technologies. This company is testifying on behalf of SolarWorld in front of the ITC.

Edward Harner, COO of Green Solar Technologies, states "We feel that American manufacturing and American workers are worth petitioning for. We realize that the cost of panels may go up and while we are concerned about costs we are more concerned with providing quality solar installations to our customers across this great country. We have never tried to compete on price when it means sacrificing quality, and the fact that we support American industry is just part of the value offered by Green Solar Technologies."

Specifically, what concerns consumers most are warranties. With solar systems, warranties are extremely important because of the extended payback period panels require for their value proposition. SolarWorld and Suniva have stated that the warranty guaranteed by foreign panel manufacturers are baseless because the ability to exercise that warranty is not as secure when dealing with a foreign company. In addition, quality control standards are difficult to verify.

Edward Harner continued, "From the beginning, we have been concerned about quality throughout the entire process of going solar. That begins with the materials we use. We just feel more comfortable with a domestic company and all the testing demonstrates that domestic companies are creating a higher quality product. The unfortunate thing is that in an effort to disrupt the industry, foreign competitors have filled the market with their cheap panels, confusing consumers and degrading the ability for higher quality domestic companies to compete."

The solar industry has changed in significant ways over the past couple years with the cost of installations dropping 40% over the course of the past 5 years. The primary driving force of this has been the rapidly decreasing cost of materials, creating a situation where customers are now expecting low prices via foreign government subsidies.

The consequences of the ITC ruling could have major ramifications throughout the solar industry. The cost of panels could increase by 50%, making the return on investment for solar decrease significantly.

Is Green Solar Technologies concerned about this? Edward Harner says, "The value proposition of a solar investment is still greater than any other investment class or category for a homeowner. Yes, there may be a higher upfront investment, but homeowners still win when they go solar with us. We feel that our history of supporting American manufacturers and our commitment to providing high-quality materials and service will continue to be prized by our customers. We feel that this is just a natural morphing of the solar market, and it will stabilize. We are confident that we will still be the discerning customer's number one choice when they decide to go solar."

Editor's note: Mr. Edward Harner, COO, Green Solar Technologies, is available for interview. Call 844-765-8324, ext. 191, or email [email protected].

To hear the National Public Radio "Marketplace" interview with Harner, visit: Edward Harner interview

Aug 16, 2017 By Jorge