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US Solar PV Trade Investigation Pushes Chinese Module Shipments

In June and July of 2014, the US Department of Commerce announced its intention to impose duties on Chinese and Taiwanese solar PV manufacturing imports. This followed on from a previous trade decision reached towards the end of 2012 to impose duties on Chinese produced crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar cells.

And, as was the case following the 2012 decision, Chinese solar PV manufacturing has not suffered all that greatly, thanks to advanced planning and a robust at-home market.

Michael Barker, a senior analyst with NPD Solarbuzz, recently wrote a piece investigating the fallout from these recent Department of Commerce trade disputes. The key thing to note from his piece was the advanced warning that Chinese manufacturers and downstream US developers received, and the use they put this advanced warning to.

In August of 2014, NPD Solarbuzz released figures from its latest Module Tracker Quarterly report for Q2’14, showing that Chinese companies shipping solar PV modules had seen a 26% quarter-over-quarter increase.

Shipments by Region for Leading Chinese PV Suppliers in Q2’14

module shipments q214

As can be seen, the impending impact of the US Department of Commerce trade investigation simply pushed up shipments from leading Chinese PV suppliers to the US.

Another graph provided by NPD Solarbuzz, shown below, illustrates just how much of an increase the Chinese manufacturing pipeline had on the US market in the lead up to the Department of Commerce ruling.

Top 20 Module Supplier Trailing-twelve Month Shipment Shares into US Market by Cell Origin

Top 20 Module Supplier

According to Michael Barker, this increase “came primarily at the expense of US, Japanese, and suppliers outside of Asia, highlighting that trade disputes can impact the market though often in different ways than originally intended.”

Unsurprisingly, Chinese and Taiwanese solar PV shipments are expected to decline somewhat over the following quarters. Downstream suppliers will slowly work through their existing inventory, major manufacturers will wait for the final trade dispute decision (which is set for December), and Chinese suppliers have already reacted to the US trade regulations, shifting their attention to markets at home and throughout Southern Hemisphere regions, such as South America and Africa.


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