SunCommon preps for solar-panel tax, says it harms everyone

WATERBURY, Vt. (WCAX) It's going to cost more to go solar.

(Image Source: MGN)

This comes after the Trump administration put a tax of up to 30 percent on solar panels coming in from other countries.

That means solar companies will have to pay more for the product if they import it from outside the U.S. That cost can trickle down to the buyer.

Supporters say the tariff gives American-made manufacturers a competitive chance. Opponents say it's going to slow the switch to renewable energy and lead to job loss in that sector.

In Vermont, SunCommon employees have been preparing for the import tax since the summer of 2017. Their warehouse in Waterbury is stacked with solar panels they got before the tax.

James Moore, the co-founder of SunCommon, says all of those panels were bought from the American company SunPower. He says that company is based in the U.S. but the panels are made overseas.

"What the president did is he used an incredibly broad brush and hurt all solar companies in the U.S. through this tariff instead of a targeted approach to, you know, really support local companies and U.S. companies," said Moore. "Instead, he hurt all solar companies."

Moore says this tax will cost people about $1,000 to $1,500 more when they go solar. At SunCommon, he says they're working to make sure customers don't see an increase.

The plan is to make the changes through things like quicker installations and fewer marketing campaigns.

While Moore is opposed, some aspects of the tax have lawmakers excited -- Patrick Leahy is not one of them. In a statement Thursday, he said the tariff will set back the industry.

Sen. Patrick Leahy:

“This is a cynical, rash and shortsighted unilateral action. It will damage America’s clean energy future, in Vermont and across the nation. Incredibly, the Trump Administration wants to hand new taxpayer subsidies to coal and nuclear, while slapping on new taxes – these tariffs – that hurt the thriving U.S. businesses that are installing solar equipment. They seemingly don’t care about how this will hurt U.S. jobs in our domestic solar installation market. This could especially do real damage to Vermont’s smaller solar installers who didn’t have the capital to get out ahead of the tariff. It won’t help make things cheaper for the Vermonters who were hoping to cut their families’ electric bills by going solar. It also reduces the buying power of some of our federal programs that are helping Vermont farmers and landowners diversify their income streams by installing solar farms.”