U.S. solar manufacturers weighing options on cheap Chinese PV imports

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U.S.-based photovoltaic manufacturers are facing increased and some say unfair competition from their Chinese counterparts where the industry is heavily subsidized by the central government, allowing them to flood the U.S. market with cheap modules.

Although it’s far from certain, U.S. companies could take action against their Chinese counterparts in suits or other actions that would allege the companies are engaged in unfair competitive practices.

One such company is SolarWorld USA, one of the oldest photovoltaic manufacturers in the U.S and the world, for that matter.

“We’re not saying anything about what we’re doing other than talking with our domestic partners. We’re just assessing all options,” said SolarWorld spokesperson Ben Santarris.

That could include a suit against the Chinese industry’s trading practices.

Such actions aren’t limited only to U.S. solar manufacturers. SolarWorld USA’s parent company, German company SolarWorld AG, is also exploring options.

“They are like us. They’re trying to figure out how to hold China accountable to international trade law,” he said.

China’s solar industry is working to seize market control from the rest of the world, according to Santarris.

“We have concern about predatory pricing and illegal trade, and the roll of the Chinese communist government and the state-sponsored industry,” he said.

SolarWorld and others are reaching out to federal contacts to learn more about potential options.

“We’re looking at anything and everything that’s possible,” Santarris said.

They’re not the only people concerned about the competition.

Recently Sen. Ron Wyden (D), from SolarWorld USA’s home state of Oregon, sent a letter to President Obama, requesting that he interact on behalf of U.S. solar manufacturers.

“Imports of Chinese solar panels increased 1,593 percent between 2006 and 2010. We need only look at the bankruptcies of major American innovators and producers of solar panels to see the material injury these imports appear to be inflicting on our domestic industry. Unless the U.S. takes aggressive action to combat the import surge of Chinese solar panels and the unfair trade practices that China employs, our efforts to facilitate the creation of the new jobs our economy needs will be substantially undermined,” Wyden wrote.

Should the companies and supporters choose to proceed, such a case could be filed with the Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Bloomberg reported that such a case would be one of the largest targeting China.

Image courtesy of SolarWorld.