The U.S. Department of Commerce tentatively agreed to assess tariffs of up to 35% on solar equipment, a move that could slow the rapid growth of the domestic solar power industry. SolarWorld, a German company with a U.S. base is in Oregon, requested the tariffs, claiming China unfairly subsidizes its solar manufacturers.
Solar panel installers, on the other hand, are opposed to tariffs. These companies have boomed as panel prices have fallen 70 percent since the start of 2010. Tariffs, they say, will make solar power less affordable.
SolarWorld made a similar complaint to U.S. trade officials in 2011. The next year, the Commerce Department imposed duties averaging 31% on Chinese solar cells. Many Chinese companies responded by taking cells made in other countries, assembling them into panels in China, and shipping them to the U.S. to sidestep the tariffs.
Many solar power industry insiders are holding out hope that SolarWorld and the Chinese can work out a settlement.