China’s influence on American solar energy

Light and heat from the sun can be harnessed as solar energy.  Solar energy comes from the converting sunlight into electricity. Harnessing this type of energy is a very high priority in many countries because it can help decrease carbon emissions generated from fossil fuels [1]. Solar energy is growing exponentially around the world and within the United States. “More solar was installed in the third quarter of 2011 than in all of 2009 combined “, in the United States [1]. However, due to several unfortunate circumstances, many politicians in Washington are not very supportive of solar power. Solyndra, a solar company, went bankrupt and may have ruined the image of other solar companies so that the government is hesitant to give these companies more tax credits. These credits, however, an important part of ensuring that the industry continues to expand in the United States [1].Companies such Evergreen Solar of Massachusetts and New York &mdash have also filed for bankruptcy.

Many companies such as Concentration Solar Power Alliance (CSPA) are trying to educate lawmakers on solar energy so that more investments can be made into the industry [3].  Their goal is to encourage lawmakers to show more interest in solar power, especially since solar power can help reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign sources of energy [3].

There, however, are many other countries that are expanding rapidly in solar energy. China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) expects China to achieve 1 GW of solar energy by 2015 and 3 by 2020 [2]. The government continues to show support in the solar energy industry. There has been recent controversy over the imported solar panels from China. The United States Commerce Department is now imposing tariffs on solar panels imported from China.  The Commerce Department accuses China of selling solar panels in the United States for less than the manufacture and shipping cost and for using government subsidies to increase American sales [5].

Many United States companies are hesitant of cooperating with the American government on looking into China’s violation [6]. The tariffs being imposed could have a huge impact on the solar energy and on the relationship between China and the United States [4]. China is exporting so many solar panels that it is now accounting for half of the United States market, while only one third comes from the American solar companies. Figure 1 below demonstrates the annual US imports of Chinese solar panels.

Image                       

Americans have increased their imports by 2.65 billion dollars within the last year but the Commerce Department claims that the domestic industry is being hurt by Chinese imports. On the other hand, the United States government is not helping much. One of the main solar energy companies, Evergreen Solar, plans to move production from the United States to China. They plan to do this because the Chinese government offers more benefits and tax breaks as compared to the United States government [4].

Not only does the United States market face competition from different countries but it also competes with other fuel sources. With the technology increasing in the old and gas market, drilling techniques are also improving so that the price of gas is decreasing. Comparatively, the solar panels appear more expensive.  

Solar energy is clean, efficient and renewable. It can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and decreased American dependence on foreign sources of fuel. However, it has many obstacles in its way and China is not making it easy. Foreign relations with China will have a huge impact on the future of solar energy in the United States.

Sources:

[1] http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/energy-environment/solar-energy/index.html

[2] http://www.hydrogenfuelnews.com/concentrated-solar-energy-becoming-a-big-hit-in-china/852874/

[3] http://www.hydrogenfuelnews.com/concentrating-solar-power-alliance-aims-to-educate-u-s-lawmakers-on-how-new-solar-energy-technology-works/852567/

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/21/business/energy-environment/us-to-place-tariffs-on-chinese-solar-panels.html?pagewanted=all

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/business/global/us-solar-manufacturers-to-ask-for-duties-on-imports.html?pagewanted=all

[6] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/business/global/six-complainants-in-solar-trade-case-are-unnamed.html?_r=1&ref=global

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