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In this week’s Solar News Roundup, Trump’s panel tariff leads to cancellations and delays for large scale solar installations, and China has started testing solar panel roads with the help of Pavenergy.
Trump’s tariff on imported solar products already causes up to $2.5 billion in losses
Since the Trump administration levied a tariff on solar imported products in January 2018, many have been wondering what impact it would have on the solar industry as a whole. This month Reuters reported that U.S. solar developers have postponed or canceled projects totaling more than $2.5 billion.
The stated intention behind the tariff is to promote manufacturing and job growth within the U.S. Large solar panel manufacturers such as JinkoSolar and Hanwha Q CELLS have been making plans to set up manufacturing facilities in America as a result of the tariff, totaling roughly $1 billion in spending thus far. This amounts to less than half the amount of money that is in limbo due to projects that have been frozen or cut from developers’ pipelines.
The tariff is also negatively impacting employment in the solar industry. Developers across the country report of plans to hire thousands of people to work on these projects. They have had to since cancel those plans. Manufacturers building U.S. factories aren’t expected to make up for the current job loss because of the increasing automation involved in building their equipment.
One example: SunPower, a popular solar company, bought a factory in Oregon from SolarWorld in an effort to save jobs and establish a U.S. manufacturing presence. This allowed them to save 280 jobs at the facility, but they also need to layoff 250 people in other parts of the company as a result of the tariff. SunPower Chief Executive Tomer Werner stated, “There could be substantially more employment without the tariff.”
There are currently bipartisan bills in both the House and Senate intended to eliminate Trump’s 30 percent tariff. If passed, it would help continue growth of the solar industry throughout the country.
China begins testing out solar roads
As a country, China has been one of the biggest investors in renewable energy development to date. Their latest innovation: testing out freeways paved with solar panels.
Pavenergy, a company located in Shandong, China, is the manufacturer of the solar panels installed on these roads. The panels are covered in a plastic-like material that can have similar friction levels to that of standard pavement, so that tires can maintain their grip. Solar panel paved roads are also also expected to have a longer lifespan than asphalt.
One benefit of these solar roads, should they work, is land conservation. Rather than placing large-scaled solar farms in fields, China can use solar cells on existing highways to generate electricity. The roads are also planned to power buildings locally, meaning there will be minimal electricity loss with transmissions.
Despite their usefulness, solar-paved roads are likely a long ways off from widespread deployment across the globe, partly due to their high costs. Here in the U.S., some additional engineering will also be required due to the existing highway infrastructure. Freeways in China are typically built with less asphalt and more concrete underneath them than American highways are. The additional concrete provides a more stable foundation for solar cells than asphalt would when cars drive over it.
If successful, innovation like solar-paved roads can help countries more easily obtain greenhouse gas reduction goals and provide renewable energy for millions of people.