Energy & Environment

New DOE competition aims to jump-start US solar manufacturing

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The Department of Energy announced a new competition Wednesday to “re-energize innovation” in the U.S. solar manufacturing market, following the president’s decision earlier this week to place tariffs on imported solar panel technology.

The challenge-based “American Made Solar Prize” would award $3 million to U.S. entrepreneurs focused on developing processes and products related to solar energy with a goal to “reassert American leadership in the solar marketplace.”


“The United States possesses the talent, expertise, and vision to surpass the rest of the world in solar technologies and forge a new solar energy landscape around the globe,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry said in a statement. “The American Made Solar Prize will galvanize our country’s entrepreneurs, allow them to utilize technologies and innovations developed through [the Department of Energy’s] early-stage research and development, and, ultimately, bring new American-made products to market.”

Winners would be embedded in a program that would link them with the agency’s 17 national labs and dozens of energy incubators in order to prime the companies for private-sector investment, according to the Energy Department’s statement.

The announcement follows President Trump’s decision Monday to place a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels. China is currently the largest solar manufacturer.

The decision was seen as a major blow for America’s $28 billion solar industry, which gets about 80 percent of its solar panel products from imports.

Trump labeled the decision as an opportunity for American solar manufacturers.

“You’re going to have people getting jobs again and we’re going to be making our own product again,” Trump said Tuesday at a White House signing event for the tariff.

Suniva and SolarWorld Americas, the bankrupt companies which requested the tariffs, say tariffs would boost domestic manufacturing and add more than 100,000 jobs.

But at least one environmental group opposed to the tariff says the competition will not do much to reassert U.S. dominance in the solar panel technology field.

“They say they want to be leaders. China has 54 percent of the market share and the U.S. has about 10 percent. If they are serious about creating leadership, than this investment has to be times 100,” said Lenae Shirley, senior director of technology innovation and market adoption at the Environmental Defense Fund. “China is planning to spend $177 billion. The U.S. has committed about $400 million. So there is a level of seriousness that China has taken with regards to growing an industry that provides clean power to citizens and the U.S. is no where close to making that commitment.”

Tags Donald Trump Rick Perry

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