The United States Commerce Department said Tuesday it would impose tariffs on solar panels imported from China after concluding illegal export subsidies were provided to manufacturers there.
A coalition of seven U.S. manufacturers, led by SolarWorld, has asked for duties of more than 100 percent on Chinese panels and cells, an oregonlive.com article said. Commerce will impose duties of 4.73 percent on imports by Trina Solar, 2.9 percent on Suntech, and 3.59 percent on all others.
The Commerce Department will decide in May whether the Chinese government, which provided the subsidies, is "dumping" solar panels into the United States below their actual cost, the Times said. A finding of dumping would result in additional tariffs, the New York Times said.
There is no question that solar panels from China currently control about half the American market, while panel makers based in the United States hold less than one-third, the Times said. American imports of Chinese solar panels have soared to $2.65 billion last year from $21.3 million in 2005.
Despite opposition of the imports from American manufacturers, users of solar energy have benefited from the low-cost Chinese solar panels, the Times said. An American industry group composed of companies that sell and install solar panels said Tuesday they were pleased with the relatively small size of the tariffs, having braced for higher ones.
"This is a huge victory for the U.S. solar industry and our 100,000 employees," said Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy. "Given all our expectations, this is really good news."
On a global scale, low-cost Chinese panels have driven down the cost of solar energy by two-thirds in the last four years, narrowing but not eliminating the wide price gap that used to separate solar power from electricity generated by burning fossil fuels.
Plunging prices however, have led to bankruptcy for three American solar panel manufacturers since last August, including Solyndra, which cost the federal government more than $500 million.