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Breaking: US excludes bifacial modules from solar tariffs

The Office of the United States Trade Representatives (USTR) announced on June 12 that it’s granting bifacial modules an exemption to Section 201 tariffs. From the day the rule takes effect, companies will no longer pay 25% duties imposed on imports. 

Section 201 tariffs

Though the U.S. market saw a slight increase in market adoption of bifacial modules this year, the progress is still slow. Trump administration’s decision now signals good news for manufacturers selling modules to the U.S. as the exemption will accelerate the US adoption of bifacial technology.

Based on the ruling, modules featuring dual-glass or transparent backsheet will also be excluded from the Section 201 tariffs. That will make bifacial modules cheaper than single-sided ones in the U.S. Also, to achieve better LCOE, some project developers will turn to bifacial modules, and thus its market share will increase rapidly.

The tariff exclusion will again change the U.S. roadmap of module supply and demand. At present, in addition to fulfilling domestic demand, local module suppliers, such as First Solar, SunPower, also shipped modules to countries outside the U.S. At the meantime, the large volume of production capacity in Southeast Asian countries are also mainly satisfying the U.S. demand. Looking at the existing capacity across Asia, LG and Panasonic have already adopted n-type technology to produce bifacial modules. After accommodating PERC cell to bifacial technology, top-tier manufacturers’ production lines in Southeast Asia will be able to produce bifacial modules as well. Therefore, those who have manufacturing lines in Japan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia will be benefiting from the legal change.

According to PV InfoLink’s module exports analysis, China has exported 320 MW of bifacial modules up to this April, with Longi, JA Solar, Changzhou EGing, and Jinko having shipped the highest volume. In terms of product, 72-cell 360/ 370W bifacial mono PERC modules were the most well-received power output, and it could be increased to 375-380W if coupling with half-cut technology. Some manufacturers have also achieved power output larger than 400W by assembling half-cut modules with 78-cell design.

Currently, China exports bifacial modules mostly to Mexico and Egypt and a small proportion is exported to Japan, Singapore, Israel, and South Korea, as well as the Netherlands, Belgium, and the U.K. This pattern, however, will change following the tariff exemption, and it is expected that the U.S. will become one of the biggest markets for bifacial modules.

As manufacturing lines in the U.S. will still be using the 2.5 GW of tariff rate quota on cells, there won’t be much difference between importing bifacial or standard cells. Therefore, the news may be negative for the U.S. solar market as it might be facing a decline in module prices in the near future.

The mentioned market scenarios will remain uncertain until the policy takes into effect, but a boost in the adoption of bifacial technology in the U.S. can be expected. In the short-term, apart from observing closely the change in prices and supply in the U.S. market, special attention should also be given to PV glass market, which already saw short supply.


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