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SolarCity Involved in US-China Solar Trade Dispute

published: 2016-04-11 17:52

Silevo, a subsidiary of SolarCity, has built a heterojunction (HIT) silicon PV cell manufacturing plant in Hanzhou, China, yet the U.S. Department of Commerce’s (DOC)’s International Trade Administration (ITA) issued a preliminary ruling which finds that Silevo’s HIT products should be covered by the 2012 US-China solar trade ruling. The investigation was launched after SolarWorld’s petition and will go to the final ruling in this June.

SolarCity acquired Silevo, a New York-based PV cell manufacturer, in 2014, and started constructing HIT production lines in USA and China. According to EnergyTrend’s data, SolarCity plans to establish 1GW HIT production capacity in the U.S., while Silevo has set a production line of approximately 200MW in Hanzhou, China.

SolarCity argues that Silevo’s HIT cells should be excluded from the anti-dumping and countervailing duties because the cells are manufactured by a-Si thin-film cell technology rather than c-Si substrate. The company asked DOC for an exemption from the punitive trade duties last year. However, DOC turned down SolarCity’s appeal for the exemption in the preliminary ruling. The final ruling is scheduled to be announced on June 23.

SolarWorld claps for DOC’s ruling as the company argues that Silevo’s HIT products meet the duty criteria.

"We are reviewing the factual and legal analysis at this time, but we are encouraged by this ruling," said Tim Brightbill, partner at Wiley Rein LLP, SolarWorld’s legal team. "(This) should help clarify for the industry that these types of ‘hybrid’ products - crystalline-silicon cells with thin film layers --are subject to the scope of the order. … First, it finds that a p/i/n junction is simply a type of p/n junction, and therefore subject to the scope of the China trade cases.”

According to fact sheet for the 2014-version US-China trade duties from ITA, the scope of PV products subjected to the AD/CVD duties covers “modules, laminates and/or panels consisting of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells.” Definition of the duty-subjected PV cells is “crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells of thickness equal to or greater than 20 micrometers, having a p/n junction form by any means.” PV cells made by a-Si thin film technology, CdTe and CIGS are not included in the scope, pointed out in the same fact sheet.

Accordingly, it is possible that DOC defines Silevo’s HIT cells as products using p/n junction, which should be subjected to the duties.

“SolarCity may accelerate its plan to go massively producing HIT products in USA if DOC rules Silevo to pay the trade duties,” said Patrick Lin, analyst at EnergyTrend. “The HIT products made domestically in USA will be used for SolarCity’s residential rooftop PV projects.”

Silevo’s Chinese manufacturing fab, on the other hand, is open for strengthening local development or for moving to other regions depending on Chinese market’s demand to HIT products, added Lin.

(Photo source: SolarCity’s Facebook Page)

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