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Tariffs or Not, New Installation System Could Change the Solar Energy Game

Moveable-Solar-System

Solar energy fans haven’t had much to cheer about during the Trump Administration, especially after the President’s recent imposition of tariffs on steel and solar panels. Nevertheless, some analysts see healthy demand persisting in the US solar market. That’s partly due to keen interest on the part of US businesses eager to polish their green cred with renewable energy.

Demand could even pass expectations if the cost of installing solar panels continues to drop, helping to offset negative effects from the new tariffs. In one recent development on that score, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has been testing a new installation system that could keep pushing down the cost of ground-mounted solar farms. That adds more weight to the argument that now is still a good time to invest in a solar installation, tariff or not.

The soft costs of solar energy

Analysts have pointed out that Trump’s new solar tariff only impacts the “hard” cost of solar energy, namely, the panels themselves. “Soft” costs account for much of the overall cost of a new solar installation. That can include anything from marketing and administration to transportation, permitting and labor costs. So, at least theoretically a saving on soft costs could offset any upward movement on hard costs.

One place where hard and soft costs intersect is the racking system needed to position solar panels on the ground or on a rooftop. These systems are generally made of steel, and that could be impacted by the new Trump tariff on imported steel. If the new racking system being tested at NREL pans out, though, labor and associated costs could drop significantly — and the steel tariff would be a moot issue, too.

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21 March 2018
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