When global demand for solar photovoltaic (PV) panels tapered off this year, Chinese manufacturers were left with stockpiles of supply just waiting to be sold.
When these manufacturers began “dumping” their supply into the American market, prices for panels suddenly plummeted and companies like Solyndra felt the effects. One German solar manufacturer, SolarWorld, decided to take action by filing an anti-trade legislation with the US government.
But even as it may hurt some solar companies, low solar panel prices have already revolutionized the possibilities for the technology, with a growing number of companies offering new and improved residential and commercial lease programs that make solar accessible to the most average homeowner.
Twenty five major solar companies have decided that ultimately, they could benefit from increased competition in the market and on November 8 they formed the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) to protect the open solar market and allow prices to drop.
“Global competition is making affordable solar energy a reality in America and around the world. SolarWorld’s action to block or dramatically curtail solar cell imports from China places that goal at risk. Protectionism harms the future of solar energy in America and negatively impacts consumers, ratepayers, and over 100,000 American solar jobs. The coalition is committed to growing a domestic solar industry, promoting innovation, and making solar an affordable option for all Americans,” CASE wrote in a statement.
The companies include Alpine Solar Energy, AltPower, American Solar Systems, Canadian Solar, Carbon War Room, Carolina Solar Energy, Gaia Worldwide, groSolar, Lighthouse Solar, Lumos, MEMC/SunEdison, Petersen Dean, Recurrent Energy, Rochlin Corporation, Russell Pacific, SolarCity, SolarFirst, Sungevity, Suntech America, SunRun, Syncarpha Solar, Trina Solar US, Verengo, Westinghouse Solar and Yingli Americas.
In the statement of its founding, CASE cited Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) data which shows that despite lower prices for individual panels, the US solar market as a whole has been growing. According to the data, the US solar industry grew by 69% this year, even as price of solar electricity dropped by 30. In fact, the solar industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the US, with more than 100,000 jobs across more than 5,000 companies, mostly small-business. Read more: Industry Group: US Solar Sector Beats China.
“There’s been overwhelming opposition throughout the US solar industry to SolarWorld’s short-sighted trade petition. The vast majority of the existing 100,000 jobs in the solar industry are in sales, marketing, design, installation, and maintenance. These jobs depend on affordably priced solar panels and companies would have to lay-off workers if panel prices rose as a result of this petition,” said Jigar Shah, co-founder and Chairman of CASE and head of the Carbon War Room and founder of Sun Edison.
He added: “Despite the remarkable progress, the US still represents only 5%-10% of the global solar marketplace. Placing protectionist barriers against more efficient and affordable solar cells — whatever their origin — discourages innovation and investment. Now is the time to move forward, not backward, on our clean energy goals. We must not walk away from one of the greatest opportunities of the 21st century.”
Photo Caption: Workers prepare the roof of a house to get installed solar power modules for producing heat on October 15, 2011 in Wessling, Germany.