ITC finds injury in solar manufacturing trade case

Finding Injury:

Finding “injury” in the solar manufacturing trade case brought by Suniva and Solar World means the ITC attributed financial problems to the low cost of imported solar panels.  It’s now up to President Trump to accept, amend or reject.

However, Solar PV panel manufacturing has been on decline for a number of years.  In fact, the rapid decline in module prices worldwide has more to do with the oversupply in the market than import pressure.  Prices fell so fast, manufacturers couldn’t recover costs of production.

Job Losses:

The solution is not setting high minimum prices for imported solar modules.  Instead, this action would be a huge blow to solar industry jobs.

The ITC made the ruling despite a bi-partisan group of US Senators urging the ITC to not impose tariffs on solar panels.  Their letter stated, “Increasing costs will stop solar growth dead in its tracks, threatening tens of thousands of American workers in the solar industry and jeopardizing billions of dollar in investment in communities across the country.”

As we know in the industry, solar companies have never enjoyed large margins, so a drastic slow down could kill many businesses.  Greentech Media predicts the remedies requested by the petition “would eliminate half of potential solar deployments over their term in exchange for limited new domestic module manufacturing.”

At its peak, Suniva employed 400 workers.  Bringing back US manufacturing will create jobs, but not many.  Companies interested in solar manufacturing will likely be highly automated.  For example, K’NEX has 110 presses to make their toys.  It only takes 8 operators to work on the floor.

Solutions:

Bringing manufacturing back to the US takes “low triple-digit millions” investment.  Cost that must be recovered within the four year “remedy” period.  According to the article “Six Ways to Encourage American Solar Manufacturing Without Import Duties,” government policies designed to stimulate local manufacturing would do more to support the industry. Ideas include investment tax credits, expanding federal procurement, direct support for domestic manufacturing, loan guarantees, subsidizing the supply chain and supporting workforce and technology development.

 

Growing Industry in New Mexico

industry in new mexico

A report out by the Solar Foundation shows that the solar industry continues to have a positive economic impact on the country. According to the report, “The industry added $84 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016.”

The study also found that the solar industry created 260,000 jobs, with one solar related job supporting an additional 2.03 jobs. These workers, who earned $50 billion in compensation, then contribute to other economic activity, considered induced impacts, based on spending by workers and employees, and this contributed an additional $62.5 billion in sales to the economy.

The top five states for the solar industry are California, Florida, New York, Ohio and Texas. While New Mexico is the best state suited to install solar, it ranks 8th for solar jobs per capita. Even though it has the second highest range for PV generation hours, it is cooler here than Arizona, so panels actually generate more energy.

REIA wants to see New Mexico take it’s rightful place among the top states with the best economic impact from the growing solar industry.

This is the kind of economic impact that could really help New Mexico. Solar jobs year/year growth in our state increased 64% between 2015 and 2016 from 1,899 jobs in the sector to 2,929 jobs. Policy makers looking for job creation opportunities should be looking for ways to support the growing solar industry in New Mexico. It’s the best opportunity for growth that we have.

Fact sheet: New Mexico Solar Jobs Census 2016

An Overview of the Photovoltaic Industry part 3

electric

Continued from An Overview of the Photovoltaic Industry part 3 Click here

Another major complicating factor to the solar electric industry is that capital market(s) are always in search of financial bubbles to exploit; where the goal of investment is to privatize the profits and social the costs. Throwing large amounts of investment money at this “new technology” has led to the commoditization of solar technology, this has produced many systems installed by larger, “big box store type” national solar franchises whose business model of providing solar equipment “leases” has been questioned by many, as they typically are more expensive than a system purchased outright. These leases almost make the re-selling of a home with a solar lease very difficult.

Almost without exception, all the market forces are moving in the direction of product innovation and using less raw materials – and lower costs. This process continues at an un-abated pace, as this is a new developing industry that is certainly not mature. Unlike developed industries, the photovoltaic industry has virtually no entrenched powerful controlling interests – to retard the rate of change or control its direction or rate of adoption. Utilities are under the direction of public regulation authorities and because of laws like PURPA, Utilities cannot stop widespread PV adoption – now that these systems are widely affordable and 43 states have adopted net metering, though Hawaii has reached a limit previously set.

Today, the most rapidly growing segment of this photovoltaic electricity production is the utility mega-watt scale solar farms, using N-S horizontal trackers and large fixed angle ground mounts – (this utility market has recently seen the most growth in sheer numbers of PV watts installed).

What will this industry look like 3 or 5 years from now?

Coupling these systems with reserve batteries banks on the large or residential level has offered promises of future advancements, but currently the battery bank option is not providing economic quantifiable advantages. Many years may pass before the price of battery banks drop far enough, to be more than an expensive added feature and provide a real economic advantage to and end user.

Arizona to Begin Solar Cost-Benefit Study

arizona solar study

Arizona is set to begin a full cost-benefit study on roof top solar. Arizona utilities have maintained, for the past two years, that roof top solar adds costs to the grid that customers who don’t have solar have to pay. According to a recent article posted in Utility Dive, the utility concluded that customers with distributed solar, on average, shift $67 a month in costs to non-solar customers because they “pay less for grid upkeep”.
However, solar advocates point out that the utility is not calculating the value of solar correctly. They assert that solar adds around 33 cents per kilowatt hour to rate payers. Arizona solar advocates also point to a 2013 Crossborder Energy study showing every $1.00 invested in Arizona rooftop solar produced a $1.54 benefit to ratepayers.

The regulatory commission voted 4 to 1 at the end of October to study the cost/ benefits of rooftop solar in order to determine solar’s worth.