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With Another Huge Bankruptcy, The West Will Come Down Hard On Chinese Solar Industry

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Solarworld which was the largest maker of solar panels in the US and one of the largest in Europe has left the western governments a bit shell shocked. This comes shortly after another major bankruptcy of Suniva which was a big manufacturer of solar cells and panels. Suniva after its bankruptcy declaration had asked that the US government invoke a blanket minimum import price of 78 cents/watt for imports. This is more than double the current price of solar panels as of now and Suniva had asked the government to invoke an old trade law Section 201 to act against imports which have almost killed the solar manufacturing industry in USA. Note Solarworld was the solar company which had initiated the anti-dumping and countervailing duties on Chinese solar panel imports in 2012 when the Chinese manufacturing juggernaut had flooded the world with cheap solar panel products. That process did not stop despite the ADD being imposed on China. In fact the process had accelerated last year with panel prices dropping by another 30%. The USA manufacturers which had started to recover a bit from the booming demand for solar energy were again faced with a 2012 déjà vu situation.

File photo of workers cleaning photovoltaic panels inside a solar power plant in Gujarat

Also, read Solarworld Merrily Destroys Cash for Shareholders

Even the large Taiwanese solar companies are facing the heat as their gross margins have gone into the red leave alone the western solar companies which are going down rapidly. Solarworld has blamed the Chinese solar industry for its downfall. Note Solarworld was big manufacturing employer with thousands of workers being employed in both USA and Germany. Its closure will mark the end of the big solar industry in the west. Earlier companies like REC and Q-Cells had gone kaput or bought out by the Asians as they could not compete with the low cost panels. First Solar and Sunpower still survive but they mostly make their products in Asia with USA now having almost negligible manufacturing capacities. Even SolarCity which is setting up a 1 GW capacity in USA has given up selling most of its rights to Panasonic and looking to make valued added solar tiles instead of plain vanilla solar panels which it knows cannot compete even remotely with the Chinese solar panels.

The West does not have a lot of weapons left in its armory. The nuclear option of imposing MIP will hurt the overall solar energy industry which consists of a lot of jobs in construction, installation and maintenance of plants. A high price will lead to a big drop in demand leading to a decline in jobs. However, the Trump administration could go ahead with it given that it is strictly against unfair trade and pro manufacturing. One thing is for sure that we will witness interesting solar geopoliticis goning forward.


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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