Solar industry in flux after President's tariff

Solar industry in flux after President's tariff

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The solar industry is in flux following President Trump's 30 percent tariff on solar panels made abroad.

While the President says the move will bring jobs back to the U.S., the Solar Energy Industries Association says it will cost 23,000 jobs in 2018. The industry employs 260,000 workers in the U.S.

The price of an individual imported panel, about 3X5 feet, can cost $200 to $500 on average. Now, add another 30 percent to that.

About 40 percent of the panels are made in China and are much cheaper than American made.

Local solar companies are mixed on how to handle the tariff.

Solar Solution AZ on Fairview, which is a company that operates throughout the Southwest, says it will eat the cost of the increase.

"Most companies will pass it on," said Kent Bauman, the company President. "We've decided we're going to absorb it."

He says the company will look for efficiencies and better productivity so that it can maintain prices and that the company will not have to cutback personnel because the company does not anticipate losing business.

"We'll cover the cost," he said.

But for small companies, such as Net Zero Solar, eating the costs will be more difficult.

"When we do see that price bump from our suppliers, we're going to have to figure out how it all comes together," said Louis Woofenden, co owner of Net Zero Solar. "We'll see."

But what both companies have in common, is the uncertainty of the industry which has suffered several setbacks.

"The last few years have been more flux than normal," said Woofenden, who has been installing solar systems since 2003. "That will continue."

In recent years, the industry has lost utility rebates, faced net metering issues and now the tariffs.

"I think overall, the industry, from what I'm gathering, doesn't know how to react to this," Bauman said.

Which is why there's so much confusion.

Net Zero has been buying as much stock as it can to avoid a price increase for as long as it can, but sees it inevitable at some point.

"When our folks are out there estimating and say well, last week it was this amount but its going to be 9,10, 12 percent higher now, that's not a conversation that's fun to have," Woofenden said. "We'll have to see how it goes."

How to handle the tariff brings out a difference of opinion, but one thing they can agree on, solar is here to stay.

"We'll work through some of the short term politics and short term setbacks, but there's always a way to work through it," said Bauman.

"It's definitely a setback," said Woofenden. "But I think the industry will survive well, grow and prosper."

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