Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Local Solar Firms Shrug off Tariffs; Installers Say Consumer Choice Is the Answer, despite Duties on Chinese Goods

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Local Solar Firms Shrug off Tariffs; Installers Say Consumer Choice Is the Answer, despite Duties on Chinese Goods

Article excerpt

Tiny blue, green and white icons are scattered across a St. Louis area map on StraightUp Solar LLC's website. Each represents a solar energy system the company has installed at a home, business or school.

The map is visual proof of how just one of several area solar companies has flourished in recent years, fueled by a decline in the price of solar equipment and favorable state and federal policies, including a voter-approved green power mandate in Missouri.

Wednesday's decision by the International Trade Commission to affirm tariffs of 24 percent or more on Chinese-made solar cells and panels would seem to pose a huge headwind for a still tiny St. Louis solar market.

But while local solar companies are still unsure of the ultimate outcome of the trade decision, they don't believe it's enough to slow the momentum.

"Let me put it this way: We're not shaking in our boots," said Susan Brown, vice president of business development for Brightergy, a Kansas City-based solar installer that has an office in Webster Groves.

Wednesday's trade commission vote caps a yearlong investigation of Chinese solar industry. The case, which has already prompted the Chinese government to open a trade investigation of U.S. polysilicon manufacturers, caused a huge rift a solar civil war among some of the biggest players in the solar industry.

On one side is Germany's SolarWorld, which operates a production plant in Oregon, and filed the trade complaint on behalf of itself and a half dozen other manufacturers.

On the other side are companies farther down the supply chain developers, distributors and installers. They say the trade case threatened to destroy more jobs than would be saved.

"This was just an attempt by SolarWorld really to use legal and trade remedies to support its own business at the expense of the rest of the solar industry," said Kevin Lapidus, senior vice president of legal and government a airs for SunEdison, a solar developer owned by O'Fallon, Mo. …

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