SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — In the wake of President Donald Trump imposing new tariffs on foreign solar panels, Bay Area solar installers on Tuesday were assessing how the move will affect their business.
The 30-percent import tax is sure to have an impact on costs.
San Jose company Clean Solar is one of the largest solar installers in the Bay Area. They figure the average California home installation will now cost an additional $1,000 to $1,500 due to the tariffs.
“It’s not a deal breaker by any means. But it certainly hurts matters,” said Clean Solar CEO Randy Zechman. “Nobody wants to pay a $1,000 more for something.”
President Trump signed the 30-percent tariff Tuesday, with the tariff rate declining each year, then phasing out entirely after four years.
Zechman said 2017 was the worst year of the past decade for the industry and the looming tariff was mostly to blame for a 15-percent decline in sales.
As a result, Clean Solar had to cut 10 percent of its staff.
Zechman said Trump’s decision sends the wrong message to the world.
“How much do we really invest in renewables? And how much do we really believe that that’s what we need as a planet or a county? And if that is the presiding thing that we need, then we’re foolish for adding tariffs to it,” said Zechman.
President Trump imposed the tariff after Suniva and Solarworld – U.S. based manufacturers with parent companies overseas – complained that cheap solar panel imports were putting U.S. companies out of business.
U.S. panel makers say it will create manufacturing jobs. Installers say it will slow down sales, and kill tens of thousands of their jobs.
San Jose State Professor Dustin Mulvaney anticipates that determined customers will just bite the bullet.
“I think customers will…if they’re going solar, this isn’t going to change their mind,” explained Mulvaney.
The professor said the tariff will likely force large-scale utility project to be downsized or get postponed, since the cost of those projects could go up by millions of dollars.
When KPIX 5 asked Mulvaney about the U.S. entering into a trade war with China, South Korea or anybody else, Mulvaney replied, “I saw about a minute after ruling was made that South Korea was exploring its own options for putting tariffs on imports from the United States. So we’re already starting to see some that.”