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Trump Administration Tariff Impacts Solar Industry, But How Much?

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Trump Administration's 30% tariff on imported solar panels means the cost of installing them will go up, at least in the short term.

A recent report from Forbes listed a 10% increase for the cost of large-scale projects, and a 6-7% jump for residential projects.

According to industry experts here in Iowa, currently, the U.S. does not have the solar panel manufacturing output to avoid having to import.

“The United States isn't producing enough to even meet that demand if it wanted to, so it's going to put upward pressure on prices for anything that gets imported” said Lewis Butler, Sales Manager for Iowa Wind and Solar.

The White House says the tariff is designed to promote more U.S. based production, but until production levels are able to meet demand, companies that install solar panels will still be faced with higher costs.

Experts say because the tariff only kicks in after the first 2,500 megawatts, most of the added cost will be to commercial-grade facilities.

“Our costs are going to be going up. We work really closely with a lot of our manufactures, we tend to get pretty good pricing and we're going to keep working on keeping prices as low as we can for our customers, but prices are going to go up a little bit.  The good news is solar is coming down in price over the years, so hopefully in another year, another couple months, the market will kind of get back to where it was before the tariff” said Butler.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association the tariff will mean the loss of American jobs, around 23,000 in 2018.

However, one Central Iowa solar company says while the tariff may hurt one part of their business, it could help another.

Power Film Solar manufactures light-weight, flexible solar panels in Ames. Those, of course, would not be subject to the tariff.

The company uses those panels to make portable solar batteries, solar roofs for boats or golf carts, and even solar tents for the military.

They believe the tariff could mean more business from individuals who want to harness the sun in some way, but don't want to shell out the extra money for a traditional solar array.

The company's president, Dan Stieler, says while they might see short term gains, the industry as a whole will take a hit.

“If you're not already a manufacturer already in place in the U.S. ready to build this type of module, it's going to be tough for other people to build up infrastructure to do so. So, for us, because we're already in place and we have some of what we need to actually build the crystal and silica modules, it'll be helpful” said Stieler.

Experts say that the tariff's effects will be fairly short lived because the amount taxed goes down every year for four years, and solar is constantly getting cheaper to manufacture.

In that short term, however, it will make things like wind and coal more competitive.