Another solar company blames China product dumping

For the second time in a week, a solar company that claims it has been hurt by Chinese dumping of product into the U.S. has come forward.

MX Solar USA, a manufacturer of solar panels in Somerset, N.J., identified itself as a founding member of an organization that has brought a trade case against Chinese solar panel makers.

The news comes within days of an expected decision by the U.S. Commerce Department whether to levy duties. A preliminary determination by Commerce could find in favor of the trade complainants. Commerce already took the unusual step of finding critical circumstances that would make the determination of duties retroactive to late December.

The complaint has been led by Oregon-based SolarWorld USA, which filed a trade case with the federal government in October, saying it had six other manufacturers lined up with it.

The companies created an umbrella organization, the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), but until last week, SolarWorld was the only publicly named member. The coalition claims to include more than 160 U.S. companies with nearly 15,000 American workers backing the antidumping and anti-subsidy cases against China’s state-sponsored manufacturers of photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules.

MX is the second founding member of CASM after Helios Solar Works, based in Milwaukee, Wis., to go public with their CASM participation in the past week. MX Solar USA has 65 MW of annual solar panel production capacity in New Jersey. 

“Essentially, China is trying to corner the market.  They corner the market and push everyone else out, and then they set their own prices,” said Elijah Sonnier, MX’s quality manager.

After reaching a high employment mark of 120 workers, the company is temporarily limiting staffing to essential employees, according to the company.

“We have supported these trade cases from the beginning, and we are pleased to publicly declare that support,” Steve Ostrenga, chief executive officer of Helios Solar Works, headquartered in Milwaukee, said last week.  “Our country can’t afford to give up manufacturing jobs in growth industries to nations that engage in illegal and harmful trade practices.”  

 

An anti-trade case organization, the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, said the complaint will start an all-out trade war between the U.S. and China. It released a report that said duties, even modest ones, would raise prices and kill tens of thousands of jobs.

But signs point to a ruling in favor of the aggrieved manufacturers. On Dec. 2, the U.S. International Trade Commission unanimously issued a preliminary ruling that Chinese trade practices are harming the U.S. domestic solar industry.

The complaint is just the latest in a series of moves highlighting intense competition between the U.S. and Chinese companies in the renewable energy arena. Wind tower manufacturers have filed a complaint against alleged dumping by China and Vietnam.

Just this week, the Obama administration joined the European Union and Japan before the World Trade Organization complaining that China has restricted access to critical rare earth metals. Rare earths are key components in everything from wind turbines to cell phones.