U.S. Solar Industry Goes To Mat Against China

SolarWorld Industries America is taking on alleged illegal solar subsidies by China, asking the Obama administration today to put duties on imports of solar cells and panels from the country.

Germany-based SolarWorld, which employs more than 1,000 workers at its Hillsboro, Ore., U.S. headquarters, said it was joining six other U.S. manufacturers of solar cells and panels in the new Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing in filing complaints with the U.S. Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission seeking relief from China’s alleged illegal trade practices.

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“Artificially low-priced solar products from China are crippling the domestic industry,” said Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America. “As the strongest and most experienced U.S. producer, SolarWorld is leading the effort to hold China accountable to world trade law.”

The coalition, whose other members were not revealed, said SolarWorld’s petition asks “the federal government to impose duties to provide relief to the domestic makers of crystalline silicon solar cells” – but not thin-film products manufactured from cadmium telluride, copper indium gallium selenide and amorphous silicon. Non-PV technologies such as solar thermal and concentrated solar power are also not included in the case, the organization said.

The coalition said the SolarWorld petition shows that Chinese exports to the United States rose more than 300 percent from 2008 to 2010, and have skyrocketed in 2011, with exports in the month of July alone exceeding those from all of 2010. The group said the stunning ramp-up in exports was due to Chinese dumping margins “well in excess of 100 percent.”

“We have joined together as an industry because the level of illegal subsidies and dumping that the Chinese government has mounted is simply intolerable,” Brinser said. “American solar manufacturers can compete with any Chinese manufacturers, but not with the entire government of China.”

The U.S. PV industry has been struggling under the weight of intense price pressure, a circumstance the SolarWorld coalition blamed squarely on China, saying its state-supported exports have “been the primary cause for a 40 percent decline in world market prices over the past year.” The organization said the toll has directly resulted in seven U.S. solar plants shuttering in the past 18 months, “resulting in the elimination of thousands of jobs in Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania.”

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.