According to Donald Trump, the US produces better solar panels than its competitor, #China. This statement was made at a meeting at the White House that was primarily scheduled to discuss the tragic school shooting in Florida. However, #president Trump dove into the topic of solar power for a brief period of time. And that’s when he bragged about US solar panels being better than their #Chinese counterparts and about how he managed to bring back manufacturing to the United States. However, are US solar panels really better than Chinese ones?
For one, the statements made by president Trump are not supported by any facts coming from reputable research, according to experts. In other words, the words of the presidents are simply his opinion about solar panel manufacturing. No research supports this claim because no research has been done to compare US solar panels to Chinese panels.
After talking about gun violence in the United States and how to prevent it, Donald Trump told some of the persons present how the import taxes on solar panels (#tariffs, as they are known) are already having a positive effect on the economy of the US. The president boasted about American solar manufacturers who are already “opening up at least five plants” (presumably in the United States). Trump also suggested that the solar tariffs have been in effect for two months, even though the tariffs have been in effect for roughly three weeks at the time of writing.
According to Trump, “We had 32 solar panel plants. Of the 32, 30 were closed and two were on life-to-life resuscitation […]. Now they’re talking about opening up many of them, reopening plants that have been closed for a long time.” However, there is no evidence that the solar tariffs have helped the US economy in any way, especially given the very short time that has passed since they were imposed on solar imports.
According to Hugh Bromley, solar analyst at Bloomberg, there is no massive capital investment in any new solar installations anywhere in the United States. Furthermore, Bromley doesn’t expect any such investments to take place anytime soon.
Over the past ten years, solar power really picked up the pace in the US. The industry was booming and it seemed like nothing could stop the dozens of solar manufacturers and installers. However, an influx of cheaper cells and modules from Asian countries like China has crippled many of the US manufacturers. Installers were not harmed because they switched to installing Chinese solar panels and it was business as usual.
The Trump administration imposed tariffs on solar cell and module imports in a bid to help domestic manufacturers. The tariffs will last for four years and will get smaller each year. According to various solar industry analysts, the tariffs will not have a sensible effect on the industry. Another problem for the tariffs is that installers have imported a larger-than-normal number of panels last year because they were expecting the tariffs to be imposed. It is estimated that installers have enough cells and modules to last them a full year.
Some experts are also questioning where Trump has taken his numbers from when he stated that there are just two solar manufacturers in the US that are still active. According to experts, there are five companies at the very least that are quite active in the solar manufacturing industry at the time of writing. Also, it looks as though there are a lot fewer than 30 manufacturers which were closed due to the Chinese imports. Apparently, some of the 30 companies are not even solar manufacturers and many of them closed for reasons other than Chinese imports.
Are Solar Panels in the US Better?
But what about the claim that US solar panels are of higher quality than their Chinese counterparts? While panels assembled by Suniva and SolarWorld in the United States are more efficient than off-the-shelf products from Asia, their quality is the same – if not lower, according to some surveys. In other words, US solar panels can produce a bit more electricity from sunlight (they are more efficient), but they are not better assembled than Asian solar panels (they are not of higher quality).
It looks like the myth that Chinese products are of lower quality than American products is just that – a myth. Asian countries have invested intensively into solar panel development and research. And the Chinese have invested a lot of money specifically into the solar panel manufacturing sector.
And when it comes to American jobs – something president Trump continuously boasts about – it looks like the tariffs may have a negative effect by making solar panels more expensive; fewer businesses and individuals will buy them, consequently. The tariffs will just raise the price of solar products for the American consumer without providing any real benefit to the country’s industry or the economy. Follow solar news to stay on top of advancements in solar!