Articulate September 2018

Bright Future for Solar, Despite Tariff


Written By: Sofia Arriaga

The federal government recently passed a new 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels, sparking worries about the impact on the solar power industry. However, Greater Gainesville solar companies say they will continue to prosper.

They point out that a 2011 report by Renewableenergy.com, an online renewable energy magazine, found that Gainesville had the highest concentrationof the solar photovoltaic panels of a single city worldwide.

Many solar power companies in Gainesville import their solar panels from China, South Korea, Germany, Poland, Japan, Mexico and Singapore.

The tariff is on all imported solar panels, so the companies are, in fact, paying more for their panels.

Because Florida has consistent sunshine, it makes sense for Greater Gainesville homeowners and businesses to invest in solar, said Wayne Irwin, president of Pure Energy Solar.

Jason Gonos, director of Power Production Management in Gainesville, said that the anticipation of the tariff created more worry than the actual imposition of them did.

When President Trump threatened the tariffs late last year, some developers canceled solar projects they were planning, he noted.

“There was widespread panic and fear in the industry,” Gonos said. “We didn’t know what the tariff was going to be.”

The impact was greatest on large projects.

“When adding a tariff to large-scale projects, it makes developers not want to do them because profit margins erode,” he said.

Gonos and other industry professionals rushed to buy solar panels for future projects during this time.

While some larger solar panel projects have been canceled, Gonos said that the outcome of the tariff is still unclear.

“Some Chinese manufacturers are trying to bring their manufacturing to the U.S.,” he said. “I believe that any cost savings from avoiding the tariff will be offset by an increase in the cost of business in the United States due to labor and environmental regulations.”

While demand for solar in Gainesville remains high, that’s not the case for every city. Places where solar power is less competitive with electricity will most likely see an impact from this new tariff, said James J. Gilmartin, a GRU engineer utility designer.Dave Viti, a 79-year-old Gainesville resident, invested in solar panels three years ago.

“We love solar panels in our home because it’s leaving a better world behind, and it makes sense financially,” Viti said.

Viti encourages his friends to invest in solar, and two of them have.

“Even if we were to move to a new home, I wouldn’t hesitate to install new panels. We really believe in them,” Viti said.

Viti’s solar panels are guaranteed to last a minimum of 40 years, so Viti said he was not worried about having to replace them.

“Even if the price increased, I would still definitely purchase them. It’s the same as electricity and everything else, things get more expensive over time. You just have to prioritize,” Viti said.

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