‘Solar coaster:’ Tax on imported solar panels will impact WI companies, and you’ll foot the bill

PLYMOUTH -- Local solar installers are bracing for the impact of a nationwide tariff that will hike up the cost of doing business. For Plymouth-based Arch Electric, that means some of the cost will be absorbed by the customer and some by the business itself.

"We try to make it as economically friendly as possible," said owner Edward Zinthefer.

Last week, President Donald Trump signed a bill that slaps a 30 percent tariff on imported panels, saying it is a way to defend American jobs, but some solar companies are worried it could impact jobs and how much you pay for solar-powered energy.

The new bill is aimed at bringing the solar manufacturing business back to the United States so the panels can be crafted on US turf.

Arch Electric referred to the latest hurdle as part of the "solar coaster;" the idea that the solar industry has ridden waves of highs and lows since its inception.

Zinthefer has ridden the peaks and valleys of that coaster for the past 15 years running the family business.

Edward Zinthefer

"Over the past year, I would say that it's been pretty tumultuous. The purchasing of solar panels has been a pain point for any business who installs solar panels solely because the tariff news was coming," Zinthefer said.

That news prompted the company to bulk order more panels to avoid the financial impact. At Arch Electrical, the average residential project costs between $10,000 and $25,000. The tariff add an additional couple hundred bucks to the total.

 

Edward Zinthefer

"The cost to us has increased. We squeeze our margins down to keep the product moving, and to make it make sense for our customers," Zinthefer said.

Zinthefer purchases solar panels from a facility in Singapore, as well as an assembly plant in Missouri. He said he would welcome an American-made solar production facility, but that the ones that existed have gone bankrupt.

Zinthefer said the spike in business will likely offset the cost of the tariff. In 2018, the company is projected to sell nearly three times as much product than previous years.

"It's a great time to go solar. There are still federal tax incentives that make it more affordable," Domagalski said.

In Wisconsin, certain local and federal incentives and rebates can refund the cost of a solar project up to 50% in the first year.

Arch Electric officials said they'll continue riding the solar coaster even if the peaks and valleys take them for a ride.

FOX 6 also received a statement from the co-founder of Sunrun, which runs a plant in Wisconsin: "We hope that for the sake of the 260,000 American solar workers who are harmed by these tariffs, the Administration will announce countries not subject to the tariffs, and that states with huge solar workforces, from South Carolina to California, will step up to overcome this short-sighted federal action."