Whiplash: Bifacial Solar Modules to Retain US Tariff Exemption Under New Court Order

A court has blocked the Trump Administration’s decision in
October to take away the tariff exemptions it granted bifacial
solar modules in June, offering a reprieve for U.S. solar
developers and a small but fast-growing portion of the solar
industry. 

In a Thursday order,
the U.S. Court of International Trade agreed with renewables
developer Invenergy and the Solar Energy Industries Association
that the U.S. Trade Representative acted unlawfully when it
withdrew its bifacial module exemption in October. 

That’s because the USTR issued the withdrawal “with only 19
days’ notice to the public, without an opportunity for affected
and/or interested parties to comment, and without a developed
public record on which to base its decision,” in violation of the
Administrative Procedure Act, the order noted.

Thursday’s decision upholds a November
temporary injunction
 from the court, leaving bifacial modules
with the same exemption they were originally
granted in June
.

In other words, after two months of confusion for the solar
industry, U.S. bifacial module tariff policies are back where they
were this summer: exempt from the 30 percent tariffs on most
imported solar cells and modules imposed by the Trump
administration
in January 2018
.

The decision will come as a welcome relief to U.S. solar
developers that have been seeking options for higher-efficiency
solar modules amidst a tariff-constrained environment.
Invenergy’s initial filing to the court noted that it had entered
into contracts based on the bifacial exemption, and had been
shocked when the USTR had abruptly withdrawn them just months
later. 

It’s also a boon to companies that make bifacial
modules, such as Trina Solar, Longi, LG, and Yingli. Bifacial
modules can generate electricity from light reflected upward onto
their lower side, as well as the side facing the sun, offering a
slight but significant increase in efficiency. 

From an installed capacity of only 97 megawatts globally in
2016, bifacial module deployments grew to over 2,600 megawatts in
2018, and are expected to reach 5,420 megawatts by year’s end,
according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. 

But as Xiaojing Sun, a senior solar analyst at Wood Mackenzie
Power & Renewables, noted in October, U.S. projects using
bifacial modules were “just not going to be cost competitive”
without tariff exemptions.

Some companies with a significant U.S. manufacturing base or
technologies exempt from tariffs, such as First Solar and Hanwha Q
Cells, stand to lose from the bifacial module exemption.

Both First
Solar
 and Hanwha opened factories in the U.S. in the wake of
the 2018 Section
201 tariff decision
, and have argued that the
exclusion undermines
 those trade protections.

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
Whiplash: Bifacial Solar Modules to Retain US Tariff Exemption Under New Court Order