Despite tariff on imported solar panels, the outlook for solar energy remains bright; Buffalo Solar Solutions plans expansion

A new 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels has resulted in a lot of negative press for the solar industry in recent weeks, but the impact on one local solar company has been insignificant, to say the least.

In fact, employees at Buffalo Solar Solutions Inc. in South Buffalo are looking forward to their upcoming move into a new office suite with twice the amount of space, and business at the local green energy company remains brisk.

“The sky is not falling as a result of this new tariff on imported solar panels,” said Jeremy McCool, commercial development manager at Buffalo Solar Solutions.

The tariff was imposed to help make U.S. solar panel manufacturers more competitive. Today, approximately 80 percent of the solar panels used in the U.S. are imported from places like China, South Korea and India, where production costs are much less expensive.

With the tariff now in place, U.S. solar panel manufacturers will have an easier time competing with foreign imports. A secondary goal of the tariff is to bring more jobs to America, and one week following enforcement of the tariff, a major Chinese solar company announced plans to build a new plant in Florida.

“The tariff is really just part of an ongoing trade war with China,” said McCool. “While it will have an impact on the solar industry overall, the impact on the average Western New York homeowner turning to solar won’t be significant. The industry has been figuring out ways to mitigate this for almost a year now, such as buying direct from manufacturers and in larger quantities.”

“Solar panels only make up approximately 25 percent of the overall price of a solar project,” added Buffalo Solar Solutions owner Tyler Uebelhoer. “It’s not the end of the world because it’s not a tariff on the entire solar operation, just one part of it. For homeowners investing in solar, they’re probably only looking at a $5 to $10 increase in their monthly financing payment. That’s not so bad when you compare it to the 11 percent rate increase for electricity that’s coming for National Grid customers over the next three years.”

Uebelhoer and McCool also point out that the tariff will have its largest impact — 30 percent — in 2018. The tariff will then decrease 5 percent each calendar year until it levels off at 15 percent. Meanwhile, generous federal and state tax credits for homeowners converting to solar remain in place.

“The announcement of the new Chinese solar plant in Florida, with hundreds of new jobs, is huge,” added McCool. “If other foreign manufacturers start producing here, it will be a game-changer for solar. So, the sky is not falling, prices won’t skyrocket and U.S. solar panel manufacturers have a fresh shot at global competition.”

“Fortunately, our company is uniquely positioned to be on the low end of the price increase scale,” said Uebelhoer. “Because of our outstanding partnership with our suppliers, any price increases for the consumer will be minimal.”

Buffalo Solar Solutions has two locations, at 1212 Abbott Road, Suite A, in Buffalo, and at 13 West Main St. in Cuba, N.Y., and will soon expand into a much larger space at the Abbott Road location. For more information, please call 800-7775, email info@buffalosolarsolutions.com or visit www.buffalosolarsolutions.com.

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