The recently announced 30% solar tariff could be offset and overwhelmed by new plans announced this week by the Rocky Mountain Institute and 35 solar energy industry leaders, which have committed to developing an ultra-low-cost solar product which could significantly reduce costs to the point that fully installed costs would only reach $0.50 per watt.
US President Donald Trump on Monday agreed to a 30% tariff on all imported solar cells and modules for a period of four years, reducing by 5% each year, and excluding the first 2.5 GW (gigawatts) of imported cells. The move is expected to cost the US solar industry around 23,000 jobs and reduce projected installed solar PV capacity over the next five years by 11%, or 7.6 GW.
Needless to say, the move has not been well-received.
But it could have been much worse, and news out today from the Rocky Mountain Institute might serve to further offset the damage caused.
According to plans announced on Tuesday, the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) along with 35 solar energy industry leaders — which together represent at least 15 GW of solar capacity, or the equivalent of 25 average-sized coal plants — have identified an opportunity to reduce solar costs by $0.20/W in 2018 alone, and have committed to developing an ultra-low-cost solar product that could not only operate in a variety of environments but could be fully installed for as low as $0.50/W.
The Rocky Mountain Institute recently hosted a four-day workshop with over 35 industry leaders seeking to apply best practices in system design, supply chain, business model, finance, and market structures in an effort to reduce costs. The end result was a diagnosed pathway which could result in the creation of a module — a pre-engineered and pre-assembled solar product of standardized design — which could be fully installed at only $0.50/W, and lower costs by as much as $0.20/W in 2018 alone.
Specifically, RMI believes that this potential product could offset the newly-announced solar tariffs, keeping the US solar energy industry on a maintained cost-reduction pathway.
“In addition to the benefit of a step-change in cost reduction, a more standard offering would be particularly effective in opening up new market segments of smaller installations, where the cost of project-by-project customization has diminishing returns,” said Thomas Koch Blank, Principal, Rocky Mountain Institute.
“By taking a whole-systems approach that leverages standardization to enable preassembly and pre-engineering, the roadmap to delivering a low-cost, easy-to-understand product offering is clear,” added Jules Kortenhorst, CEO, Rocky Mountain Institute. “Furthermore, regional preassembly of solar equipment and components, which get trucked to local sites for efficient installation, creates new jobs and community investment.”
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