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U.S. Solar Boom Stumbles

Higher costs and supply constraints are causing problems for what many see as a solar industry boom in the United States under the strongly pro-renewables Biden administration.

According to a Financial Times report, despite strong demand for solar power, some forecasters are beginning to doubt that the U.S. government’s ambitious plans for adding 21.5 GW of utility-scale solar this year may not pan out.

The FT cited Wood Mackenzie as one of these forecasters, noting the consultancy had revised substantially down its projections for utility-scale solar additions for this year.

“There are two realities for the solar industry right now,” Xiaojing Sun, head of solar at Wood Mackenzie, said as quoted by the Financial Times. “The demand for a clean energy product like solar is extremely strong . . . but the other reality is the situation on the ground, given Covid, the complex supply chain situation as well as some of the geopolitical factors.”

The industry does not seem to share the concern, based on recent comments made by a senior executive from Hanwha Q Cells, the largest solar panel manufacturer in the Western Hemisphere.

“We’re at an inflection point for the industry,” Scott Moskowitz, director of strategy and public affairs at Hanwha Q Cells, said this week, as quoted by E&E News. Solar power, he added, is “the cheapest form of energy that has ever existed — now that the industry has scaled, how are we going to make sure we install as much as possible?”

The answer to this question may not be as simple and straightforward as the industry would hope. In addition to rising production costs amid a major commodity rally, there is also the question of Chinese dominance in all things solar.

Last year, the Biden administration suspended imports of Chinese polysilicon on allegations of forced labor being used to make the material and made non-Chinese suppliers prove their polysilicon does not come from China’s Xinjiang province.

There is also the question of Chinese solar import tariffs, introduced by the Trump administration and kept by Biden. Those have both supporters and opponents in the U.S. solar lobby, and it is yet to be seen which side will prevail.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry. More