U.S. excludes new panel technology from solar tariffs

(Reuters) - U.S. trade officials on Wednesday said bifacial solar panels, a new technology through which power is produced on both sides of a cell, would be excluded from the Trump administration’s tariffs on overseas-made solar products.

The announcement was made in a U.S. Trade Representative document posted online and is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, it said.

It is the second time U.S. trade officials have announced exemptions to the tariffs, which were imposed in early 2018. The tariff on solar panel imports was set at 30% but has since dropped to 25%.

The USTR late last year excluded some of the products made overseas by SunPower Corp. On Wednesday, it excluded two other solar technologies and said it would not consider any additional exclusions.

The news was welcomed by the top solar industry trade group.

“This a significant win,” John Smirnow, vice president of market strategy for the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a statement. “This exemption will accelerate the adoption of bifacial technology in the United States, which is still in a relatively early stage.”

Bifacial technology is a small but growing part of the market for solar panels. They are capable of producing more power than traditional panels but are higher in cost.

Colin Smith, an analyst with Wood Mackenzie, said the exemption would help spur demand for the now tariff-free products and bring down the technology’s cost.

“It’s certainly going to make developers look into bifacials more closely,” Smith said.

Several large Asian manufacturers, including Canadian Solar, LONGi, LG, Trina Solar and Yingli Solar, have some bifacial module production.

Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Susan Thomas