The parade of giant wind towers into the United States might be over.
Adding to anti-subsidy duties of between 13 and 26 percent on tower imports from China, U.S. trade authorities are now slapping antidumping duties of between 20 and 72 percent on Chinese imports and 52 to 59 percent on towers from Vietnam.
These new rulings [PDF], like the earlier one, are preliminary, but the U.S. Department of Commerce said it will nonetheless instruct customs officials to begin collecting duties on towers pending a final verdict in the case before the end of this year.
The rulings came in response to a trade complaint [PDF] filed by U.S. manufacturers –Trinity Structural Towers, DMI Industries, Katana Summit and Broadwind Energy, all based in the Midwest.
The fight over wind is just one aspect of a growing trade fissure on green energy between China and the West. Last week, a coalition of European companies asked the European Commission to investigate Chinese companies for allegedly dumping solar products in Europe, a complain that followed directly on the heels of similar – and so far successful – allegations in the United States.
While the solar market is measured in the billions of dollars, Commerce Department said imports of utility-scale wind towers from China in 2011 were valued at $222 million, and those from Vietnam at $79 million.
Still, the issue is volatile. Imported wind towers recently entered into the political debate about the U.S.’s clean-energy loan guarantee program when Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) complained that the 854-megawatt Caithness Shepherds Flat Wind Farm in Oregon, recipient of a $1.3 billion loan guarantee, used Chinese-manufactured towers in building what will soon open as one of the world’s largest wind farms.
The steel plate wind towers in question are massive. They are manufactured in three to five sections, then put together at the project site, and can weigh more than 300 tons and generally rise 80-100 meters in height. Prices for a tower can range from $300,000 to over $600,000.
According to the American Wind Energy Association [PDF], 1,783 new turbines went online in the U.S. in the first nine months of 2011. The U.S. companies, joined together as the Wind Tower Trade Coalition, said in their complain that it was difficult to determine how many towers were coming to the U.S. from China and Vietnam because that data was tracked by the weight of the components. But in the first nine months of 2011 the weight of Chinese and Vietnamese tower components imported to the U.S. doubled compared to the same period in 2010, the complaint said.
Alan H. Price, chair of Wiley Rein’s International Trade Practice and lead counsel to the Wind Tower Trade Coalition (WTTC), stated that, “Commerce has taken an important step to address the significant dumping that is taking place. The preliminary (antidumping) and (countervailing) duties will help to remedy the material injury already suffered by the U.S. industry and force the Chinese and Vietnamese producers to compete fairly.”