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Western solar panel makers finally see some sales by pushing China and USA into a Trade War

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Solar panel maker Solarworld is finally seeing some benefit from instigating USA and China into a full-fledged solar trade war over unfair subsidies being given to manufacturers of solar panels and cells in China. USA recently expanded its anti-dumping treatment to Taiwan as well, which plugged a loophole in which Chinese panel makers such as Trina, Yingli and others were getting cells made in Taiwan to escape the 20-30% duties on imports of Chinese panels into USA.

Most US solar panel makers are now seeing a surge in solar panel orders as Chinese import prices have come to parity with the US ones. Western solar producers such as REC with solar manufacturing plants outside of China are also seeing full utilization now. USA is set to become the 3rd largest solar market in the world in 2014 with over 4 GW of demand. It is sucking supply from non-Chinese sources as most of the world’s solar panel capacity is located in China and Taiwan. REC recently said that its capacity is fully booked out for 2014 as orders, are surging from US installers such as SolarCity.

Solarworld is also looking to expand module capacity in its Oregon plant by almost 50% by spending $10 million. The company is however still bleeding money and is in the red, despite raising production. Solar panel production is a low margin business and has become a commodity. Only the lowest cost and largest producers can make money in this business. The solar trade wars are only giving a temporary boost to unviable players by setting up artificial barrier to trade. It is preventing a consolidation of the best players in the industry. Some of the western solar producers are not competitive anymore despite their tall claims.

Solar panels is not a very high tech industry that will be “lost” to the West if China starts making most of the panels. The technology and equipment makers have become quite mainstream and easily accessible.In case China imposes export restrictions in the future, the western countries will be easily able to make solar panels at home. It is not a rare earth metal industry where the raw materials are very scarce. Silicon is one of the most abundant minerals on earth and most of the semiconductor industry is owned by the western corporations.

NY Times

SolarWorld Americas, the Oregon-based module manufacturer whose bitter trade dispute with China led to steep tariffs on imports from that country, announced a $10 million expansion of its plant on Thursday because of increased demand.

The company, once battered by stiff competition from Chinese manufacturers that drove many American solar module makers out of business, plans to hire about 200 more workers next year and increase its module production capacity by almost 40 percent.



Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

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