Clean Power

Published on July 16th, 2014 | by James Ayre


Thin-Film Solar Panels Surge To 11-Month High Thanks To US-China Trade War

July 16th, 2014 by  

Actions always have consequences — as the ripple effects of the US Department of Commerce’s recent move to close a loophole allowing Chinese-made solar modules to circumvent current anti-dumping duties are now showing.

Thanks to the growing trade dispute between the US and China over this action, thin-film solar panel prices have risen to an 11-month high — spot prices are up about 8% in just the past month, up to 62.4 cents a kilowatt (as of July 9). Prices were as low as 58.2 cents just last month, on June 4.

Image Credit: First Solar

Image Credit: First Solar

While thin-film prices have risen notably, polysilicon panel prices have fallen somewhat, despite being produced mostly in China — by 2.8%, to 63.2 cents.

Bloomberg provides more:

The US Commerce Department last year set duties on Chinese-manufactured panels after SolarWorld AG complained that they were being sold at prices below cost. On June 3, the department proposed closing a loophole that allowed Chinese manufacturers to ship panels through Taiwan.

The increased threat of tariffs on Chinese suppliers may help thin-film manufacturers such as First Solar in the US and Solar Frontier KK in Japan, whose panels often sell at a discount to more efficient modules made in China, said Jenny Chase, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Zurich.

“It’s very possible that the trade wars have made really low-cost Chinese modules increasingly unusable in many markets,” Chase noted. “That’s causing developers to look to thin-film.”

A final determination on the preliminary duties set on standard polysilicon modules from China and Taiwan on June 3 — of 19% to 35% — is expected to be made by August 18.

The issue is then expected to be ruled on by the International Trade Commission within 45 days of the department’s decision.

In related news, the field of solar energy just saw a relatively potential efficiency “breakthrough,” through the development of what’s been termed “singlet fission.” The approach allows for the potential boosting of solar cell efficiency and performance by as much as 30%, according to the researchers involved.

While none of this is likely to see the commercial market anytime soon — and therefore doesn’t have much to do with US-China trade wars — it’s still interesting to follow the field, and get an idea of where the field might be headed in coming years/decades.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Henry WA

    Surely the panel prices quoted should be $0.62 etc per watt not per kilowatt

    • Bob_Wallace

      What? Haven’t you heard about the overnight 1,000x drop in panel prices?

      James, do you ever read comments on your posts? I can’t recall you responding to any.

      Henry’s should get a “Thanks, I’ll fix the problem”.

      • drvney

        So a 10kwh panels cost 6k$ ?
        For how much sqr meter would that be?

        • Bob_Wallace

          Panels are rated in watts (W). Watt hours (Wh) is a measurement of the amount of electricity they produce over an hour. One kilo watt of panels would produce 1 kWh with an hour of sunshine. The same 1 kW array would produce 2 kWh with two hour of sunshine, 3 kWh with 3 hours, etc.

          10kW of panels would be 10,000 watts and at $0.62/W that would be $6,200.

          Size will depend on panel efficiency. A 16% efficient panel will produce a lot more electricity per square foot than a 12% efficient panel.

          A 17.4% efficient solar panel produces 16.20 Watts per sq. ft.

          10,000 watts of 17.4% panels would cover 617 square feet of roof.

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