Local solar companies prepared for Trump's tariffs

10 months 2 weeks 5 days ago Thursday, January 25 2018 Jan 25, 2018 Thursday, January 25, 2018 2:15:00 AM CST January 25, 2018 in News
By: Abby Dodge, KOMU 8 Reporter and The Associated Press
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JEFFERSON CITY – Solar companies in mid-Missouri said they've taken steps to keep prices down, knowing President Donald Trump was likely to impose tariffs. That happened Tuesday.

“My administration is committed to defending American companies,” Trump said  “They’ve been very badly hurt from harmful import surges that threaten the livelihood of their workers.”

Doug Carr, of Missouri Solar Applications, said the tariffs are not a positive move for the solar industry.

“I think it’s going to save a few jobs at some manufacturing places and cost more jobs than that in general,” Carr said. “I think it’s going to be a drag on the entire industry.”

He said the jobs at Missouri Solar Applications are safe, but that won’t be true for the country as a whole.

“It’s going to be a net loss of jobs, in my opinion,” Carr said.

Missouri Solar and other Missouri companies, such as Sun Solar, said they knew the tariffs were a possibility, so they prepared accordingly.

“We just stocked up two months ago because we knew this coming down the pike and we wanted to have pre-tariff prices for whoever buys solar now,” Carr said. 

Missouri Solar bought 30 pallets of solar panels ahead of the decision. Carr said that is enough for 30 single-family home projects.

The stockpile of solar panels has not been assigned to any projects. The pallets are sitting in a warehouse waiting to be used. 

Jennifer Rothchild, district manager of Sun Solar, said her company would not feel the effects of the tariffs on the same scale as smaller solar companies because of its larger buying power. Sun Solar has the ability to preorder more equipment and materials than smaller contractors.

The company also anticipated the tariffs and began stockpiling about six months ago.

“The tariffs will not only increase prices on imported panels, but will result in limited inventory from all manufacturers and distributors, driving up prices,” Rothchild said.

Carr said Americans may be tempted to wait out the tariff for a year or longer.

The 30 percent tariff is set to phase out over the course of four years. 

“I’m a little concerned that if somebody is doing a large project and it’s towards the end of the year, they might just say, 'well lets just wait until next year and the tariff will be lower,'” Carr said.

He said he hasn’t received new estimates on solar panels from either of the companies that supply Missouri Solar, so he does not yet know if it will be more cost effective to buy American-made panels or continue to use a mix of foreign and domestic panels.  

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