Company halts $20M expansion because of tariffs

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, January 29, 2018

A California solar company is putting a $20 million expansion on hold because of President Trump’s solar tariffs, E&E News has confirmed.

The announcement from SunPower Corp., first reported by Reuters, could affect hundreds of planned factory jobs in Texas and California, according to the company. SunPower manufactures solar cells primarily outside the United States.

In an earlier press release, SunPower CEO Tom Werner said the company’s technology demands a higher price because it is highly efficient in turning sunlight into power.

“Because it is a premium product, commanding a premium price, it cannot have contributed to the harm to domestic producers that the administration found in this case,” Werner said.

The company is seeking an exemption from the tariffs and won’t move forward without it, he said. Werner also told Reuters that “we pay a higher tariff despite the fact that it’s an American technology.”

SunPower is one of the first large companies to tie its investment decisions directly to Trump’s action. Under the plan announced this week, tariffs on solar modules and cells would start at 30 percent, then phase down in increments over four years (E&E News PM, Jan. 23). The administration has not yet released details on product exemptions.

The Solar Energy Industries Association estimated the tariffs could kill 23,000 jobs this year. The petitioners in the case, Suniva Inc. and SolarWorld Americas, say controls are needed to level the playing field with cheap imports.

Since Trump’s decision, some companies also have announced expansions. Earlier this week, Mission Solar announced it was increasing production and hiring employees at a Texas manufacturing plant to meet demand for solar modules.

SunPower ranked second last year in supplying modules to the U.S. residential market, according to GTM Research.