US anti-dumping case threatens future of 3 GW of solar projects

As much as 3 GW of solar PV projects in the U.S. could be under threat following the confirmation last month that fresh anti-dumping tariffs will be levied on solar modules from China and Taiwan.

A new report from solar analysts NPD Solarbuzz suggests that many project pipelines may be forced to find alternative suppliers or potentially pay higher prices for the Chinese modules they had originally lined up, with approximately 3 GW of capacity at risk from the new ruling.

Half of the current U.S. PV project pipeline comprises large-scale ground mount solar plants – a traditionally attractive economic proposition because of economy of scale saving buoyed by affordable solar modules from China. Now, with tariffs ranging from anywhere between 26% and 165%, many developers’ budgets have since been smashed since the preliminary duties were introduced at the end of July.

"Large-scale ground mount PV installations are particularly vulnerable to cost increases and potential disruption, as many have signed power purchase agreements at aggressive rates," said NPD Solarbuzz senior analyst, Michael Barker. "Any increase in cost for the projects could mean renegotiation, delay, or even termination."

Across the U.S., the solar PV project pipeline has reached 50 GW for utility-scale and commercial projects, with California leading the way and followed closely by Nevada, North Carolina and Arizona. There is also increasing interest in GW-scale PV developments in states such as Utah and Minnesota, which had previously shown little thirst for the development of solar.

"Solar PV is rapidly become more cost-effective as a power generation source," said Christine Beadle, analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. "Project developers are swiftly adapting to new market dynamics and are driving strong growth, especially in community and carport systems, but this growth may be interrupted if any external factors increase prices significantly."

The graph above shows the location of PV projects in the U.S. with Chinese-sourced modules, highlighting the threat that the new higher tariffs could have on the continued development of large-scale solar PV in the country.