Chinese Solar Imports Drop Dramatically, So Do Prices

Imports of Chinese solar panels to the US are down dramatically since the US imposed anti-dumping tariffs, but in contrast to what many feared, solar prices are still coming down.

Monthly imports have dropped by 80% since October 2011 when they were valued at $278 million. For the month of November 2012, they were just $50.5 million, according to US Census Bureau data. And the fourth quarter is usually peak selling season.

Through November 2012, Chinese cell and panel imports totaled $1.7 billion, down from $2.4 billion for the same period of 2011, a decrease of about 30%, according to Census data.

Yet, solar panel prices keep falling. For polysilicon-based solar panels, the spot price averaged $0.65 per watt this month, according to PV Insights.

Many solar installers were afraid prices would rise, but during the first half of 2012, the installed price of PV systems dropped 3-7%, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s report, "Tracking the Sun."

"The tide of the Chinese government’s intervention in the U.S. solar market is showing signs of receding," says Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld, which filed the complaint that led to tariffs. "The relief could not come too soon. Workers for most manufacturers have suffered widespread cuts, and the finances of Western and Chinese companies alike have fared poorly. Unlike Chinese counterparts, however, the strongest non-Chinese operators cannot depend on their government to prop them up as they endure the consequences of China’s illegal trade practices."

SolarWorld brought a similar complaint in the European Union, which is under review.

China has threatened to impose its own duties on polysilicon imports from the US, Europe and South Korea. A ruling is expected on February 20.

Here’s our background on the Chinese solar tariffs.

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