WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) –
Does the solar industry have a cloudy future ahead of it?
Following President Trump’s attempt to defend American workers he approved a 30-percent tariff on imported solar panels.
While the U.S. solar industry is split on the issue, many believe costs will rise and jobs will be lost.
Nicholas Gilleland, a Wichita Falls solar panel installer, has been in the solar industry for seven years.
Gilleland heads the Solar Division at Davis Electric where they install solar panels that absorb sunlight and convert it into energy.
Over the years the company has installed panels for hundreds of businesses and homeowners to cut down on electricity costs.
Gilleland said the 30-percent tariff on imported solar panels did not come as a surprise.
“We prepared for it, we stocked up on panels,” said Gilleland. “I bought more than we should of just because we knew this was coming.”
He said he buys them from all over. Korea, Germany, even Texas but most come from overseas.
“Probably 75-percent or more,” said Gilleland.
He adds the change is not going to increase their American purchasing because he is still seeing prices are more affordable for the imported panels, even with the tariff in place.
“Believe it or not the American made manufacturers have raised their prices just as much,” said Gilleland.
As for jobs, since Davis Electric is a smaller company with about ten employees on its solar team, Gilleland does not think he will have to lay off any of his crew.
However, he knows that is not the case for everyone in the industry.
“I would see more of a job cut on the manufacturer side of solar panels,” said Gilleland. “I think their margins are extremely tight and so a 30-percent tariff increase could very well hurt them.”
According to one energy research firm, the tariffs are expected to decrease solar installations by eleven-percent over a five-year period.
Abigail Ross Hopper, CEO and President of the Solar Energy Industries Association, believes the industry will continue to grow but at a slower pace.
“If you had a tariff, if you ad cost to something, fewer people are going to be able to buy it,” said Hopper.
Gilleland said it is not the best thing to hear, but he and his company are prepared to figure out how to deal with it.
A solar energy association says the tariffs will cost the nation 23,000 jobs.
The tariffs will taper out after four years.
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