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The U.S.-China Trade Case Determination and What It Means for Solar Installers and Consumers
Jun19

The U.S.-China Trade Case Determination and What It Means for Solar Installers and Consumers

A few months back, we published a post on All You Need to Know About the US-China Solar Trade Dispute and how it might affect solar installers and consumers if the case isn’t settled. Well, a preliminary decision is in. The Department of Commerce (DOC) has made a preliminary determination on June 10th in favor of SolarWorld, the German/U.S. solar panel manufacturer who filed the suit. Before we get into the penalties being proposed and finalized, we should remind readers that there are two parts to this case: Part 1: The DOC Decision The first part, now in the preliminary determination stage, has to do with SolarWorld accusing China of illegally subsidizing its solar panel manufacturers with low interest loans and other cash-related subsidies that allowed Chinese manufacturers to manufacture solar panels and export them to the U.S. (and the rest of the world) at below their actual cost. The 2012 DOC decision determined that was the case and imposed over 23% to 254% in countervailing duties (CVD) on various solar cells made in China. However, Chinese manufacturers got around these tariffs by manufacturing their solar cells in Taiwan and other nearby countries, then assembling the rest of the panel in China. Consequently, this new 2014 DOC preliminary determination now includes solar cells and other basic solar panel materials being made in Taiwan and shipped back to China for assembly and export. So, how much in duties will be tacked on to the price of imported Chinese solar panels? The preliminary CVD varies and depends on the brand: For Suntech solar panels, the tariff is 35.21%. For Trina SolarEnergy, the tariff is 18.56%. For all other Chinese brands, the tariff is 26.89%. That means that the wholesale price of all Chinese-made solar panels coming into the U.S. may be increased by as much as 35.21%, and at the very least, by 26.89%! The DOC will make its final determination by August 18, 2014. But wait, there’s more: Part II: The ITC Decision Remember, we said that there were two parts. Now that the DOC has ruled, their evidence has been handed over to the International Trade Commission (ITC). The ITC is deciding whether China is intentionally overproducing (“dumping”) their artificially inexpensive Chinese solar panels on the U.S. market in order to flood the U.S. solar market, forcing SolarWorld to lower their prices to compete. The ITC previously said this was the case in the earlier 2012 decision, so most industry analysts think they’ll do so again, but now include solar panels and cells from Taiwan. Should the ITC rule in favor of SolarWorld again, then additional antidumping duties may...

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2014 Could See a Boom in Solar Panel Installations
Jun03

2014 Could See a Boom in Solar Panel Installations

2014 Could See a Boom in Solar Panel Installations   Solar panel installations have been gaining ground all around the globe as the drive for a greener world intensifies. The United States is not left out of the solar power revolution, which has also received more boosts with drop in solar panel prices. From all indications, it looks like a bigger boom in solar panel installations is on the way in 2014.   Fall in Prices   A few years back, one main argument against solar panel installation was the costs involved. Things have changed for the better as more responsible governments and solar power companies combine to drive down the costs of these installations. Some governments, with the aims of tackling problems of climate change and creating new jobs, have been providing incentives for all forms of solar power installations. Some of the world’s top solar power companies are also doing their bit to ensure prices fall through the development of solar power panels that are more efficient in performance. In addition, the entry of more new firms into the industry has also helped to make costs of solar panel installations lower.   Boom in Solar Panel Installations   Access to solar power was almost exclusively left to wealthy individuals and ardent anti-global warming advocates years back. The simple reason for this was the associated costs of installations, which to many people, were not justified. But things have improved so much in the last couple of years, thanks to the revolution being witnessed in the solar power sector. Solar panels now cost about 60% less than they did just a couple of years back, making installations more affordable. The price drop is even more impressive over a longer timespan.   More middle-class families can now afford solar power installation. For example, in California, residential solar panel installations now cost less than $5 per watt, and that amount is expected to significantly drop further in the next few years. The upfront investments that have to be made are the main turn-off for most homeowners when talking about solar power. But all that is changing as residents of some states such as California and New Jersey can take advantage of rebates that take away the need for massive initial investment, with payments spread over several years (more details here).   Further boom in solar panel installations therefore looks on the way, as more people and businesses choose solar power. All indications point to a continuous rise in solar panel installations in the US, especially with the significant drop in solar panel costs. The argument that solar power can help save...

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Micro Solar, a Solution for Both the Industrial and Developing Worlds
May12

Micro Solar, a Solution for Both the Industrial and Developing Worlds

You often hear about home solar and megawatt solar projects, but micro solar devices are also important energy sources for both the developing world and for consumers in our own industrial world. Micro solar, sometimes referred to as “pico solar,” are portable solar chargers that typically consist of a small photovoltaic panel, some type of battery, and a USB connection. Mobile devices, such as phones, tablets, lights, and laptops can juice up from either the micro solar’s battery pack or directly via the solar panel. The benefit of a small solar powered charger is also a challenge, since most micro solar products have low-power solar panels that charge its batteries or external electronics very slowly. The good news is that more powerful micro solar products are coming into the market. The latest example is Harold Tan’s recent—and successful—Kickstarter campaign for the SunJack solar charger with battery pack. These compact 14 Watt and 20 Watt mobile solar chargers are designed to be the most portable solar charger ever produced. In fact, the SunJack can power 8 iPhones or 1.4 iPads with only 5 hours of sunlight, whereas similar portable solar chargers can charge only one iPhone in nearly twice the amount of time, or even longer. In the industrialized world, micro solar has many uses, from the campers and off-grid recreationalists, to the beach family that wants to keep all of their USB-based mp3 players, tablets, and mobile phones powered on throughout the day. On the more serious side, portable micro solar is increasingly the latest addition to home or car emergency kits. Whether it’s Super Storm Sandy or the recent harsh snow and rainstorms that have temporarily knocked out parts of the U.S. grid, a powered cell phone is today’s lifeline to an ambulance, rescue services, or it can be the main point of contact for distant friends and family. Cell phones are also the most common conduit for news and evacuation information. Quite simply, when the grid goes down, micro-solar with some type of battery storage is the best answer for consistent charging of mobile devices during emergencies and utility outages. Beyond our industrial world, people in rural communities often burn candles, wood or kerosene for lighting. Not only is this method expensive, flammable, and toxic, the villagers must travel long distances to either collect or buy these fuel sources, wasting time and money. Micro solar allows these rural residents to power their cell phones and lighting from solar instead of dirty and expensive fossil fuel sources and generators.     Case in point is Papua New Guinea, where rural village people commonly burn kindling indoors for lighting....

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Telemarketers Stealing GoGreenSolar.com Name
Apr29

Telemarketers Stealing GoGreenSolar.com Name

Over the past two years, we have had people call or email us to complain about a company operating a Telemarketing campaign identifying themselves as “Go Green Solar” or using a name that is very similar. Please be advised that this is NOT GoGreenSolar.com. We do not, and have never done any kind of outbound telemarketing. Our business is obtained only through passive advertising and referrals from satisfied customers. We have determined that these unsolicited telemarketing calls are the work of an unscrupulous lead generation company which is using our name or something very similar to deflect complaints away from their company. This company will apparently make multiple unsolicited phone calls – even to numbers on the National Do Not Call list. ??Solar telemarketers like this often imply that they’re with a government organization or claim to be the utility company.  So far, we believe we’ve identified one of these companies with a call center located in Van Nuys, California.  We have taken steps to try and stop them, but as of yet they are still continuing their unscrupulous tactics, evading prosecution through fake identities and changing phone numbers. Please understand:  GoGreenSolar.com does not do any telemarketing or door-to-door canvassing.   That being said, if you have any information about this company that is misusing our name, please help us put an end to their unethical business practices. File a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by following the link below: File Complaint | FCC.gov Thanks for your...

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Net Metering, Value of Solar Tariffs, and What They Mean for Installers and Their Customers
Apr25

Net Metering, Value of Solar Tariffs, and What They Mean for Installers and Their Customers

One of the hottest topics right now in the solar industry is the future of net energy metering (or “net metering”), a policy that allows solar customers to be credited on their utility bills for any extra power that their solar systems produce. What’s to become of net metering, what might replace it, and what do these changes mean for installers, customers, and utilities? That’s hard to predict right now, but some recent events may give us some clues as to where we’re heading and what the future holds for each stakeholder.     Net Metering’s Benefits To understand what’s at stake, let’s first go through net metering’s benefits for customers, installers, and the utility: For solar customers: Net metering allows customers to install a larger solar system that meets their total day and night annual energy usage without having to purchase expensive onsite battery storage. Thus, it gives consumers the ability to save more on their electric bills than they would without net metering. Until energy storage prices come down, net metering is the next best thing to having a battery. For solar installers: Net metering allows solar installers to design larger solar systems that meet the entire day and nighttime needs of their customers’ homes and businesses. Without net metering, it would only make financial sense for customers to install enough solar to offset daytime energy consumption. Since many residents work outside their homes, a home’s daytime energy usage can be relatively small, so installers would see a significant drop in installation sizes without net metering. That would of course reduce their business and probably require a smaller workforce, which would in turn affect workers in the solar industry. For utilities: While utilities may claim that net metering unfairly subsidizes solar customers by allowing them “free” energy at night, they discount the value of extra solar power being fed into the grid and being used by neighboring homes and businesses. Utilities also benefit from the avoided costs of not having to build more power plants or use expensive peak power plants, plus they receive grid efficiency savings by not having to transmit energy for long distances over inefficient electric lines. Finally, utilities ignore the value of decreasing pollution and their carbon emissions.     Current Net Metering Battles So, utilities see net metering and solar as a problem to their bottom lines. As a result, they and their lobbyists, such as ALEC and the Edison Electric Institute have been trying to devalue solar and net metering by asking public utility commissions to credit solar owners with only half the kilowatt-hours that they generate or by imposing monthly...

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