• Manufacturers producing bifacial solar panels outside China and shipping these to the US won’t have to pay safeguard tariffs
  • The USTR has announced exemption for this technology from the tariffs it imposed in January 2018
  • Flexible fiberglass solar panels with 250 to 900 W output without glass components and laminated panels with more than 10 mm spacing between cells are also exempt from paying tariffs

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) has exempted bifacial solar panels from the list of products manufactured overseas (but outside China) and imported into the country on which the US government had imposed tariffs. The USTR has announced the exclusion in a filing which will officially be published in the Federal Register.

The other technologies excluded by the USTR from paying tariffs are flexible fiberglass solar panels without glass components other than fiberglass and power ratings of 250 W to 900 W, and laminated panels with more than 10 mm spacing between cells filled by optical films.

In January 2018, US President Donald Trump approved safeguard tariffs (so called Section 201) to be imposed on certain crystalline silicon PV cells (CSPV) and other CSPV products containing these cells, manufactured globally and imported into the country, starting with a 30% rate to come down by 5% annually. Hence in 2019, the tariffs have fallen to 25% (see Trump Slaps 30% Tariff On Imported Cells & Modules).

The USTR says it received 48 product exclusion requests to the safeguard duty imposition that majorly fell into 7 categories it defines in the filing, with one of these related to bifacial solar cells and panels.

The announcement is sure to accelerate the push towards bifacial solar panel technology, which all companies have started doing anyway as PERC and other high-efficiency technologies are bifacial by nature – and it is only the modules that require a transparent backside (glass or back sheet) and a few other slight modifications to reap the additional bifacial benefits of the solar cells.

An overview on bifacial technology can be found in the TaiyangNews Bifacial Technology Report.

While the cost for bifacial modules is a few cents higher than standard modules, the 25% lower import tax will give them a competitive advantage on price. Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables Senior Solar Analyst Colin Smith was quoted by GTM as saying that the exclusion will give bifacial more of a competitive edge against other modules.

Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Vice President of Market Strategy, John Smirnow told Reuters this will accelerate the adoption of bifacial technology in the US forcing module suppliers to start offering bifacial solar technology.

However, Roth Capital discussed if this exemption will indeed bring on 201 compliant cell capacity more quickly – and came to the conclusion. “It’s not clear to us that it does, but it’ll be a question to address in the coming weeks. Additionally, because cell capacity remains constrained, the Chinese vendors likely maintain price, ramp up bifacial, throw it in for the prior pricing of 42-45c/W, and pocket the difference. Customers will likely want to share the margin, but the vendors may not be willing to part with too much given the tight conditions,” Roth Philip Shen and Justin Clare commented.