Thursday, May 10, 2012

Commentary: Solar Panel Installation Needs to be Cheaper and Easier

The recent Commerce Department announcement that it would start levying duties ranging from 2.9 percent to 4.73 percent on imports of Chinese solar panels, as well as panels made in other countries that have Chinese-made solar cells, received much attention and mixed reactions from various players within the U.S. solar industry.

The decision, made after finding evidence that China’s government provided illegal subsidies to its export manufacturers, was largely seen as a way to assuage domestic solar manufacturers who have suffered in the past two years as prices for solar modules dropped precipitously. Whether this is an opening salvo to a trade war with China, the solar industry needs to refocus its efforts on a less dramatic but ultimately more important issue — cost reduction.

The photovoltaic industry is currently reliant on the 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit and varying state incentives to make solar projects economically attractive. In light of recent legislative paralysis regarding renewable energy incentives and open hostility from some members of the government, we cannot reasonably expect any new support from the federal government. Much the same can be said with regard to the state level as well.

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