solar technology | analysis | markets
The U.S. International Trade Commission announced on Dec. 2 a preliminary determination that the import of Chinese-made solar cells and panels may have
harmed American solar manufacturers.
“For us, this is a resounding validation that illegal Chinese
practices have injured U.S. manufacturers and eliminated
thousands of jobs,” said Ben Santarris, a spokesman for Solar-
World USA, the Hillsboro, Ore., factory that initiated the
anti-dumping petition in October. “This is the first positive
step toward restoring sustainable module production in the
Solar World USA is the American subsidiary of the public-
ly traded Solar World AG, of Bonn, Germany. The company’s
petition is backed by an anonymous consortium of Ameri-
can factories organized as the Coalition for American Solar
Trade Commission: Chinese Module Pricing Suspect
Manufacturing (CASM), which claims 150 members representing about 11,000 workers.
“For the past 20 years we’ve had vigorous competition that reliably reduced wholesale
prices by 8 to 10 percent annually,” Santarris said. “Now a centrally planned economy has
severely distorted the rules of supply and demand.”
The U.S. Commerce Department began its own parallel investigation on Nov. 9, and may
announce as early as Jan. 12 whether trade remedies are in order. That could take the form of
import duties on Chinese-made products, possibly applied retroactively to October 2011.
Installers and developers of solar power systems are concerned that tariffs may drive prices
upward, which may slow construction of new systems.
“We do think that the threat of tariffs is problematic for the solar industry,” said Kevin
Lapidus, senior vice president for legal and governmental affairs at SunEdison and a spokesman
for the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, which opposes the CASM petition. “Projects
now under development were underwritten at a certain expected price for modules. Rational
economic actors won’t wait for an awkward surprise later on.”
Lapidus notes that the battle over tariffs has just begun. “This is a preliminary finding,
at a lower legal threshold of reasonable suspicion [that harm has been done]. It now goes
back to the Department of Commerce and then to a formal investigation. The final deci-
sion, which we expect in the fourth quarter of 2012, will be to a higher legal standard of
substantial evidence.” — SETH MaSIa
10 January/February 2012 SOLAR TODAY solartoday.org
When general electric announced in april that it had bought the outstanding shares of Primestar
solar, it came on the heels of ge’s acquisition of con-
verteam, a major manufacturer of power-conversion
equipment, including very large generators and invert-
ers. ge, which claims to have built 25 percent of all the
electric-generating capacity in the world, is jockeying
for the lead in renewable energy hardware.
that includes solar power. in october, ge began
renovating an existing building in aurora, colo., to
make 400 megawatts (m W) annually of cadmium tellu-
ride modules, with production beginning in 2012. the
plant will employ about 350 people locally, and ge will
add 100 to its solar staff in niskayuna, n.y.
diane merfeld, ge’s director of solar technologies,
said that the new modules will offer a conversion effi-
ciency of 14 percent (in april, Primestar had achieved
12. 8 percent at its 30-m W plant in arvada). she sug-
gested that the new modules will be larger and lighter
than cdte panels now in production — and very cost-
competitive. — SE TH MaSIa
gE Scales Up for Leading Role
in Cd Te modules
170 TWh. Add in all forms of hydroelec-
tric power (including pumped-storage
generation) and all renewable capac-
ity rose 259 percent, to 154.9 GW, with
generation up 104 percent, to
Two reports issued in November mark the progress of renewable energy sources in the United States.
The Energy Information
Administration of the U.S.
Department of Energy issued its
Electric Power Annual Report.
It showed that over the decade
ending in 2010, net summer electrical
generating capacity rose 28 percent, to
1.05 terawatt (TW), while actual domestic generation rose 11. 7 percent, to 4,128
terawatt-hours (TWh). Coal-burning
capacity rose 0.5 percent, to 316.8 gigawatts (GW), and actual generation fell 6
percent, to 1,847 TWh. Natural gas capacity rose 27 percent, to 407 GW, surpassing coal levels back in 2003. Natural gas
generation rose 64 percent, to 988 TWh.
Nuclear power capacity rose 3. 5 percent,
to 101.1 GW, and generation rose 7 percent, to 806 TWh.
Hidden in these data are
the capacity factors — the
percentage of capacity actually
used. Coal plants went from 71
percent in 2000 to 67 percent
in 2010, while natural gas went
from 31 percent to 28 percent.
Nuclear plants improved from 88 percent
to 91 percent, and nonhydro renewables
dropped from 59 percent to 36 percent as
more intermittent sources came on line
(biomass plants are a smaller part of the
equation now). Average capacity factor for
the entire grid in 2010: 45 percent, down
from 52 percent in 2000.
Meanwhile, nonhydro renewable
electric capacity rose 246 percent, to 53.9
GW, and generation rose 110 percent, to
Meanwhile, in California, the Envi-
ronment California Research and Policy
Center reported that the state’s 2006 Mil-
lion Solar Roofs Initiative (SB1), halfway
through its mandated 10-year life, passed
1 GW of installed rooftop photovoltaic
capacity, and is on pace to meet its goal of
3 GW by 2016.
Even in a weak economy, California’s
solar market has been expanding by about
40 percent annually. Even if that rate falls
to 25 percent per year, the state will achieve
the 3,000 MW goal by the end of 2016.