By Erick O’Donnell
We reported just last October about the economic rain clouds looming over the American clean energy movement as inflation threatened rising costs for solar companies and their customers.
Well, when it rains, it really does pour. Now a government investigation into alleged tariff circumvention by Chinese panel manufacturers is inflicting severe supply disruptions on American solar installers, threatening to curtail the nation’s clean energy transition. A survey of 200 American solar companies by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) found that 74 percent have had orders canceled in the wake of the investigation.
“This is the biggest threat I’ve seen in my 15 years in the solar industry,” said John Smirnow, general counsel and chief marketing strategist for the SEIA.
The inquiry was launched by the Department of Commerce in response to a complaint filed in February by Auxin Solar, which alleged that various panel exporters in Southeast Asian countries were owned by Chinese companies and were being used to bypass tariffs set up by the Trump administration.
Val Berechet, co-founder and CEO of Arizona-based installer SunSolar Solutions, predicted that some companies will go out of business after being caught unprepared. A reliable source told Berechet that a “major manufacturer” had just canceled a 100-megawatt order of panels and raised prices 20 percent on its remaining stock. The price of a certain panel used by SunSolar has gone up 62 percent since last April.
“It’s insane,” Berechet said.
Not that he’s sweating it. SunSolar has spent the past few months carefully preparing to thrive in an environment marked by severe disruption, leveraging long-established industry relationships to boost the company’s panel inventory and thereby build a buffer against supply shocks, Berechet said. The company is also taking care not to commit to projects for which the availability of materials is not certain, he said.
“From our end, it’s all about being informed and being on top of it,” Berechet said. “It’s about having plans so we can deliver to customers.”
“I do feel confident in our ability to get through this challenging time,” he added.
Berechet foresees severe trouble for companies that are not as prepared as SunSolar.
“People who are not prepared, not on top of this, will absolutely be blindsided,” he said.
For homeowners thinking about going solar, the recent supply shock only increases the urgency of the decision. Panel prices have been steadily creeping up because of general supply-chain issues, and Berechet predicts significant and durable increases in ultimate project costs. For example, a rooftop-installation project making use of the panels that cost 62 percent more this year will ultimately cost the customer about 20 percent more than before.
The rush by customers to take advantage of today’s lower prices will only jack up the pressure on stragglers to commit.
“There’s a ton of demand and limited supply,” Berechet said. “And demand will only increase, given this.”
Even in these times of economic and political volatility, time can be on your side—if you’re willing to take action. SunSolar Solutions is ready to provide the tools you need to take your energy future into your hands.
Call us today at 623-562-9009 to have a design prepared for your home free of charge.
This content is sponsored by SunSolar.