This week in solar, renewable and sustainable news
In this week’s solar news, the Biden Administration shines a light on imported solar panels for the next 24 months. Also, California reaches a brief but powerful milestone, and a network of federally funded charging stations brightens the horizon.
Solar Panel Supply Chain Set to Improve
As if there weren’t enough practical challenges to transforming the U.S.’s carbon-heavy energy supply, trade disputes, looming tariffs, and growing supply chain challenges have thrown up barriers to solar energy’s growth in recent years. The result: Finding enough solar panels to meet demand has been near impossible. The constrained supply has slowed both industrial solar farms and private home installations.
Bringing the challenges to a head was a petition filed with the Commerce Department earlier this year. U.S. solar panel manufacturer Auxin Solar filed an official complaint that would have levied tariffs on panels imported from four countries — Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. China provides many of the components to those manufacturers.
With China already subject to a 250% tariff after “dumping” panels at artificially low prices a decade ago, the Auxin petition alleged that imports from the four Southeastern Asian countries were essentially mislabelled Chinese-manufactured panels.
Complicating the matter was that the petition called for retroactive tariffs so taxes could be levied even on equipment after installation.
A Big Step Forward For Solar
Solar advocates across the country have been calling for federal action. At the same time, President Biden’s clean energy goals for 2035 are riding on solar energy in a big way.
On June 20, the administration ended the trade uncertainty while also promoting domestic manufacturing in the long term.
The administration announced that it would forego tariffs for two years and guaranteed that there would be no retroactive taxes. The Commerce Department will continue to investigate the allegations.
The move is a temporary bridge to keep installation goals on pace while U.S. manufacturing ramps up to meet needs.
To that end, the Administration also announced that it was invoking the Defense Production Act. The move helps domestic manufacturers by tying long-term energy independence to national security.
“President Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act so that the U.S. can take ownership of its clean energy independence,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm in a statement. “For too long, the nation’s clean energy supply chain has been over-reliant on foreign sources and adversarial nations.”
Solar Gets A Much Needed Reprieve
Many solar advocates hailed the move. “The president’s action is a much-needed reprieve from this industry-crushing probe,” Abigail Ross Hopper, the president, and chief executive officer of the Solar Energy Industries Association, told NPR.
Acclaim was not universal, however. U.S.-based panel manufacturers decried the lifting of tariffs. “First Solar is deeply disappointed in today’s announcement, which only benefits China’s state-subsidized solar industry,” Samantha Sloan, vice president of global policy for First Solar, said in a statement.
With the force of the federal government behind the effort, the administration expects U.S. manufacturing capacity to triple by 2024.
All Together In Oregon
In other solar news, a small Oregon power plant took a big step forward for renewable energy when the Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility went fully online this spring. The facility, a unique combination of 300 acres of solar panels, 250 wind turbines and 30 megawatts of batteries, supplies clean, renewable energy around the clock, even when the sun isn’t shining. Portland General’s project uses many of the same transmission lines as a shuttered coal-fueled plant powered for years.
The plant aims to solve one of the biggest challenges of solar and wind power — their intermittent nature. The 30-megawatt battery evens out the supply and helps supply emission-free energy for up to 100,000 homes in the region.
Cross Country EV Road Trips on the Horizon
Another federal government move toward renewable energy came earlier this month when the Department of Transportation issued guidelines for the $5 billion committed to public electric charging stations throughout the country.
With a goal of 500,000 charging stations nationwide, the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program aims to address the “range uncertainty” that comes with owning an electric vehicle but not knowing where your next charge is coming from.
The document also sets out pricing standards, rules for interoperability, and other vital guidelines. The 2030 goal is for EV drivers to take great American road trips without worrying about finding a charge.
Source: U.S. DOT
California Goes 100% Renewable Momentarily
California has become infamous for the many challenges to its energy grid, including drought, the impending closure of its last nuclear power plant, and an ever-increasing demand based on population influx and the popularity of current-draining electric vehicles. But in good energy news from California, The Golden State’s power grid hit a different type of milestone when it briefly generated enough energy from renewables to meet 100% of its current demands.
The good news came on a particularly mild day in April. Abundant sunshine powered the state’s solar panels even as few in the state were running energy-sapping air conditioning. Hydroelectric plants and wind turbines also hit target numbers and made the landmark moment possible.
Even though the state’s natural gas plants continued to operate during the record-setting period, hitting 100% was a hopeful sign.
This week’s sunshine song
Kate Bush is enjoying an unlikely revival and is topping charts with Running Up That Hill.
As a solar company, we’re all about another of her 80s hits, “Cloudbusting.”
Check back each Tuesday for everything you need to know about solar and renewable energy. If you’re ready to learn more about how solar can make a difference for you, reach out to us.