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Black Hole Sun: What Recent Solar Panel Tariffs Mean for Green Building

Politics and home construction aren’t often in the same conversation but the latest news of the US enacting steep tariffs on China—where many construction materials and products are manufactured—is affecting all industries, especially solar product companies.

In January 2018, the New York Times reported that President Trump’s new tariffs on imports of solar energy cells and panels were to help protect American manufacturers. According to the Times, the tariffs are largely aimed at China, which has become the world’s largest manufacturer of solar products by producing low-cost crystalline silicon panels. China also seemed to evade previous US tariffs, meaning that of the 95 percent of America’s solar panels are imported, and coming from other countries, such as Malaysia and South Korea, who are responsible for half of America’s imported solar panels.

GTM Research found that solar installations will continue to rise from 2018 to 2022, though there will be 11 percent fewer panels installed as a result of the tariffs.

Complicating matters is that the solar companies that requested the tariffs, however, are already bankrupt, and neither are US-owned, according to a recent Journal of Light Construction article. Imposing these tariffs on behalf of an entire industry in which the representatives are no longer involved means that the severe solution of tariffs will negatively affect smaller US companies, and making the adoption and implementation of solar energy slower and less financially attractive. Larger American companies that develop large-scale solar farms, as well as retailers and tech companies, are worried that these tariffs “will cost more money and make solar power less competitive with other energy sources in the short term.”

So what does this mean for you, the person looking to build a future-forward, eco-conscious home?

The good news is that for people who value energy-efficient high performance homes, including solar cell panels, it will still be possible to achieve, but perhaps at higher prices and from less stable manufacturing arenas. As the Times pointed out, “All told, the tariffs will increase the cost of utility-scale solar projects by about 10 percent and residential rooftop systems by just 3 percent—raising them roughly to prices seen two years ago."

The downside is that less adoption of solar energy as viable, efficient, energy-saving resource means more reliance on fossil fuels and traditional energy methods—effectively, a step backward for green building.

While politicians continue to tap dance around the repercussions of these kinds of steep tariffs, eco-friendly and green building construction companies will continue to harness the technology available and implement the smartest, most efficient, energy-friendly materials to build homes of the future.

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