solar panel sun sunset reflectionSolar Tariffs - Feel the Pain?

When it comes to tariffs, you’ll have to go a long way to find anything to beat the 249% tariff we were recently charged on a couple of small, specialized marine solar panels imported from Solara in Germany. These smaller panels are not as popular here in North America as they are in Europe and around the Med, but we were selling one or two along the way, and needed to replace stock. It transpired that the cells in these panels were manufactured in China by a company that is not on the list of preferred solar manufacturers, and so we got walloped with the huge tariff.

So that’s that. Until further notice, Coastal Climate Control will no longer be offering Solara Standard Series panels, from 12 watt through 80 watt.

It’s a shame really. We only saw a small return on these small panels as they were quite expensive to purchase and import, but they are a high quality product that would occasionally fit in a niche installation, and customers are very happy with them. But now we can no longer bring them in to the USA, and once our current stock is depleted we will not order any more until either the tariff is dropped or our friends at Solara use cells from somewhere other than China or Taiwan.

This 249% mega-tariff is the result of anti-dumping and anti-unfair competition measures imposed back in 2012, first on Chinese products exclusively, and later to include Taiwan, as so many manufacturers hopped over there to set up shop. But then they started hopping off to other places around the region as well, effectively watering down the effectiveness of the US tariffs.

So, not to be outdone, the present administration took a different tack for the latest tariffs and herded all major nations world-wide (there are exclusions for certain “developing countries”) into the dock for judgment and punishment. Unlike the earlier anti-dumping and anti-unfair competition tariffs, this time around there is no country-specific element and it’s basically the US versus the rest of the world. Labeled a “safeguard measure”, these tariffs are designed to deter foreign solar companies from importing solar products into the US at less cost than the available domestic equivalents, which would therefore give them an unfair advantage in the solar marketplace.

Starting in February 2018 at 30%, and then decreasing by 5% annually for the next four years, this safeguard tariff initially covered all sizes of marine solar panels that Coastal imports. Thankfully, this was amended earlier this year to exclude marine and mobile panels of 120 watts and smaller, so as things stand now, only panels in excess of 120 watts are subject to the 25% tariff, which will fall to 20% in Feb 2020, 15% in 2021, and cease entirely from February 2022 onward.

Now, looking at the brighter side of things, it appears that the Residential Energy Credit is still at 30% for tax year 2019. So whatever the tariff might add dollar-wise to your solar purchase, you can get a nice, fat credit on your federal income tax to more than make up for it, but only if you’re lucky enough to pay US income tax. If you’re lucky enough not to pay US income tax, then I hope your other arrangement does well for you. If you don’t pay any taxes at all, then you’d best not stop moving and keep your head down.