Solar-panel exporters try to counter US tariffs

Updated: 2012-12-07 12:56

By Qidong Zhang in San Francisco (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

All three companies have shares that trade on the New York Stock Exchange, and Solyndra claims they used that access to raise capital to help drive out US competition.

Special:Chinese enterprises in the US

"The allegations are baseless," Suntech's Frost said. "The lawsuit is a misguided effort by Solyndra to find scapegoats for its failure to commercialize its technology at a competitive price point. Solyndra's competitive advantage was to solve the problem of expensive silicon; when silicon prices crashed, Solyndra's technology became obsolete."

Mendenhall, of Trina, said, "Solyndra is positioning a story that ascribes blame to others as opposed to taking responsibility for its own poor business decisions and consequent market failures."

Both Suntech and Trina expressed determination to "vigorously" defend themselves against the lawsuit.

Before its September 2011 bankruptcy filing, Solyndra provided fuel for partisan critics of President Barack Obama. His administration guaranteed $535 million in loans so that the company could deal with excess manufacturing capacity in the solar industry.


Chinese solar panel makers condemn US ruling

US upholds high tariffs on solar panel imports

Solving solar panel friction through dialogue

US ruling on solar panels 'unreasonable'

A trade war wouldn't hurt only the US and China, but also the global market for solar panels and the electricity-producing crystalline silicon photovoltaic, or PV, cells that go into them. That's the view of Robert Wu, chairman of the US-China Green Energy Council, a San Francisco trade group that promotes cross-border ties in the industry.

"It isn't fair to blame Chinese companies for selling cheaper products," he said. "On the contrary, consumers in the US have largely benefited from the drastic drop in prices."

According to Frost, the US market for solar-power equipment is projected to continue growing fast. Still, Suntech was finding it difficult to manufacture efficiently in the US given the price depression caused by oversupply. The company produces about 50,000 panels a year at its plant in Goodyear, Arizona, for customers interested in domestically made gear.

Regardless of the tariffs, Suntech will rely on its broad supply chain and manufacturing sites in China, Japan and the US to provide customers with high-quality, affordable panels, Frost said.

"We expect continued growth particularly in large-scale commercial installations, as solar becomes competitive in more states across the country. We anticipate the US and China, the world's two largest energy consumers, will also become the world's two largest solar consumers by the end of the decade."

Trina Solar, with over 20 offices worldwide, has made a significant investment in the US and expects the market to keep expanding, Mendenhall said.

"We are strongly committed to sustainable solar manufacturing through continuous innovation and industry-leading environmental and corporate social responsibility," he said, pointing to industry awards for innovation and its donation of 200 PV panels (worth about $75,000) for a charitable project in Haiti.

The companies' optimism is based on strong growth in the US industry so far in 2012. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, the sector's April-to-June quarter was its second-best ever, with 772 MW of solar electric capacity installed. That was 125 percent more than in last year's second quarter.

The upward trend is likely to continue, according to US Solar Market Insight, a quarterly publication of the association and GTM Research, which analyzes the renewable-energy industry: "As the US solar industry progresses toward 2016, it is becoming increasingly clear that system prices will fall significantly. This will enable a substantial volume of installations in some states to be built using only federal incentives.

"As system prices continue to fall," the report said, "additional markets will open up and drive demand despite the likelihood of waning state-level financial support for solar projects. Effective state policies, particularly those pertaining to net-metering and permitting, will still be needed in order to accelerate deployment in some markets."

Shi Zhengrong, Suntech's executive chairman and chief strategy officer, wrote in a blog post that the industry is "at the start of a new chapter. Solar is still the future - but it's ready today.

"To continue our progress, we can't afford to be distracted by international trade disputes," he added. "We need to encourage national policy-makers to engage in constructive dialogue to avert a solar trade war that would harm the many for the benefit of the few. We have to keep our eyes on the prize of deploying affordable solar energy for everyone, everywhere."

(China Daily 12/07/2012 page8)

Previous Page 1 2 Next Page