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Imported Solar Panels Could Face Tariff, Increasing Costs To Consumers

Craig Ruttle

The International Trade Commission ruled Friday that inexpensive, imported solar panels have harmed U.S.-based panel manufacturers. In New England, solar installers say they started stockpiling the panels even before the decision.

The ITC supported a complaint by bankrupt U.S. solar panel maker Suniva and another company, calling for tariff charges on imported solar panels. Cheap panels, made mostly in China, have helped to fuel a surge in solar installations at all levels in the U.S.

Vaughn Woodruff, founder of Pittsfield, Maine-based InSource Renewables, says utility- and commercial-scale solar installers for months have been buying up panels as they become available, and he’s followed suit — now carrying about 15 times his usual inventory.

“The solar supply houses look a lot like Georgia before a snowstorm, where the shelves are empty — it’s hard to get panels and we’re seeing one of the first increases in solar module prices coming down the tracks based on uncertainty in the market right now,” he says.

It will be up to President Donald Trump now to decide how to address the ITC ruling. Industry observers expect him to put a tariff on imported panels — which could double their cost to consumers.

This report comes from the New England News Collaborative, eight public media companies coming together to tell the story of a changing region, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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