On January 23rd, 2018, President Trump announced that there would be a 30% tariff imposed on solar cells and modules produced outside of the United States. While the solar tariff percentage will fall each year for 4 years, and the first 2.5 gigawatts of imported solar cells each year were exempt, solar industry leaders decried the tariff. The belief that this would do serious damage to the U.S. solar industry was widespread, and to many the future looked dark for solar energy. But nearly a year later, has the tariff really caused that much damage? It looks like the answer is ‘no’.
That’s not to say there was no damage done at all. In a Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) report, it was stated that at least 9,000 solar jobs were either lost or not added due to the tariffs. Many utility-scale projects were also either delayed or frozen, and most solar companies were hesitant to expand operations or hire as many new employees. But despite these setbacks, the solar industry as a whole has continued to grow, and shows very little sign of stopping.
A large part of the continued growth is the steady decline in the cost of solar panels. In the last decade alone the cost of solar has decreased over 60%. In 2008 the average cost of a solar panel installation was over $8 a watt. Today solar panels are on average $3 per watt. The 30% federal solar tax credit has also done its fair share in convincing people to make the switch to renewable solar energy, especially when combined with available local incentives. Furthermore, many solar installers began to stockpile solar panels prior to the tariff being passed, which also helped to soften the blow. And some companies, such as LG, even opened up additional solar plants in the U.S. to help with the solar tariffs altogether. All of these things, combined with a rapidly growing interest in renewable energy in general, has meant that the solar industry has continued to grow and expand, even with the solar tariff in place.
What is perfectly clear from all of this is that renewable energy- especially solar energy- is growing throughout the nation. Solar power is a clean, reliable source of electricity that will be available as long as the sun is shining, and more people are making the switch to solar every day. While 2018 may have presented some challenges, the solar industry seems ready to flourish in 2019. Sunpro Solar is excited to see where this new year will bring us, and we look forward to bringing the power of the sun to even more people.