Hoosier Solar Gains at Risk
Updated: Jun 7
UPDATE 6/6: The Biden Administration has announced a 24-month tariff exemption for solar panels from Cambodia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam, which will allow solar projects to move forward in Indiana and elsewhere in the U.S.
At the same time, the administration will use the Defense Production Act to spur U.S. manufacturing of solar panels.
Together, these actions ensure that Hoosier communities, farmers and workers will prosper from the economic benefits delivered by solar energy farms while constructively encouraging the growth of American solar manufacturing.
We have all been there. You are on the cusp of a major decision and then something unexpected bubbles up from nowhere, derailing what you were just about to do. That moment at a quantum scale best explains where Indiana is as it moves towards the diversification of our energy supply.
Commerce’s potential action on tariff implementation for solar panel imports is disastrous for Indiana and our rural communities
The U.S. Department of Commerce, responding to a complaint from an obscure California based company, is considering whether to impose tariffs on solar panels imported from Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam – who supply 80 percent of panel imports. Just the threat of tariffs has frozen the solar industry, with reports of more than 300 projects nationally being delayed or cancelled, and more than 200,000 U.S. jobs at risk.
Commerce’s potential action on tariff implementation for solar panel imports is disastrous for Indiana and our rural communities who benefit from pending and proposed solar farms. Our success in attaining more Indiana solar farms is now facing a self-imposed obstacle.
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb understands the threat to Indiana – Gov. Holcomb was one of 19 governors - both Republican and Democrat – to sign a letter decrying the Commerce solar action and its consequences:
“The current market disruption jeopardizes much of the progress achieved by the domestic solar industry…Almost immediately solar prices have jumped because of dramatic drops in solar product imports, threatening the livelihoods of more than 230,000 American workers who rely on solar jobs and raising energy costs on families.”
Just as more than a decade ago with the advent of wind turbines, our international neighbors are ahead of the U.S. in production. Many of wind turbine components then were sourced from the likes of Germany and beyond while the United States got our act together and began producing these parts domestically. The same is true right now with utility scale solar panels for Indiana projects.
My overriding concern is that shutting down the solar industry in the name of growing more US-based solar panel manufacturers won’t create more US panel makers, it just shuts down the industry. You can’t grow business by shooting the customer.
As a farmer, I have long observed the impact of tariffs upon agricultural commodities. Government oversite and intervention, while it can be important and have the best of intentions, can end up being detrimental to business as an unintended consequence. My overriding concern is that shutting down the solar industry in the name of growing more US-based solar panel manufacturers won’t create more US panel makers, it just shuts down the industry. You can’t grow business by shooting the customer.
Expanding solar tariffs won’t hurt manufacturers in Asia – the solar market is exploding worldwide, with or without America. Instead, it’s US workers who get hurt. Hoosier communities won’t see new economic development flow in to their towns, and farmers will lose a reliable source of income, as consumers lose an affordable, clean source of energy.
To keep Indiana—and the United States for that matter—on track for our energy diversification goals, it is imperative that the Department of Commerce put to bed the current trade dispute regarding Chinese-based production. As always, Americans will rise to the occasion with production, but we can’t afford to kill solar in the meantime.