$100 million Texas solar project on hold as Trump administration threatens tariff

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The company’s $990,000 solar farm at Celina High School in Collin County is also threatened by maneuvering in Washington D.C. As long as tariffs aren’t too high, that project could still go forward next fall and cut the high school’s electricity bills by thousands of dollars annually for decades.Turmoil in the fast-growing solar industry started in April when bankrupt Georgia-based manufacturer Suniva filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission blaming cheap solar cell imports. Oregon’s SolarWorld Americas, which has an insolvent parent company, signed on to the petition later.The federal commission has already ruled that solar cells and panels were “imported in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury or the threat of serious injury to a U.S. industry.” After suggesting a variety of actions, the panel is scheduled to present its recommendation to Trump by next week. The president will have 60 days to decide on a remedy.Although the commission ruled that action was needed, its range of proposals didn’t satisfy Suniva. The company had asked for tariffs that could have translated to 50 percent or more for some components.”The remedy recommended by the ITC is disappointing because it will not heal the damage suffered by this American high-tech manufacturing sector from what has been a tidal wave of imports,” according to the company’s statement. “The ITC’s remedy simply will not fix the problem the ITC itself identified, and with it, we’ll see very shortly the extinction of what remains of this manufacturing sector …”Tariff supporters have argued this would create new U.S. manufacturing jobs that were killed by foreign subsidies. Opponents have said that’s a small percentage of the U.S. solar market and higher costs will cost far more jobs — as many as 88,000 — than it would save.The U.S. had more than 260,000 solar jobs last year and 6,400 in Texas, according to industry group The Solar Foundation. Most of those are in installation, assembling panels and manufacturing wiring, mounting systems and other related equipment. The number of people manufacturing solar cells, building blocks of the industry, have shrunk to almost nothing.

Jeff Mosier,

www.dallasnews.com