Trina shrugs off US solar duties

Several major Chinese PV suppliers claim sales to the US will continue unabated – and, indeed, grow – in spite of the preliminary anti-dumping duties announced last week by the US Department of Commerce.

Trina Solar, the world’s second largest module supplier after Chinese rival Yingli, has struck the most defiant pose, claiming that its US sales growth will continue even if the anti-dumping and countervailing duties are finalised later this year.

“Because of [our] competitive cost structure, in-house manufacturing capacities, global strategies, strong brand image and quality products and global strategies, [Trina] will continue to grow its business in the US and to play an important role in the US market,” the Changzhou-based company said Tuesday.

Of all China-based manufacturers, Trina, which intends to end 2014 with 3.8GW of module capacity, received the lowest preliminary duties – both anti-dumping countervailing.

Should the anti-dumping duties be finalised, Trina would be forced to pay 26.3% – compared to the 42.3% imposed on rivals like Yingli, JA Solar, Wuxi Suntech, and Canadian Solar, and the 58.9% imposed on Renesola.

Trina derived 17% of its sales from the US last year, and about double that in China.

New York-listed shares of Trina are down about 2.5% since the latest trade announcement was made, and are down more than 14% in 2014.

Separately on Tuesday, Canadian Solar, which performs most of its manufacturing in China, called the anti-dumping announcement made on 25 July “deeply disappointing”.

Nevertheless, Canadian Solar added: “By leveraging our global and competitive supply chain, we do not expect any significant disruption to our business in the US.”

Canadian Solar maintains about 500MW of module capacity in Canada, with the remainder in mainland China.

Despite the bitter taste the trade case has left in the mouths of Chinese manufacturers, they will invest the time and resources to find ways to continue selling into the US, says NPD Solarbuzz senior analyst Ray Lian, who is based in China.

“The US market is so big that Chinese and Taiwanese solar companies definitely want to be part of it,” Lian tells Recharge.

While the preliminary anti-dumping duties came in higher than many industry observers had expected, analysts believe that the biggest Chinese players will continue to find success in the US.

Some may build manufacturing capacity overseas; others are likely to revert to producing everything in mainland China, and simply swallow the more modest duties imposed in a separate 2012 trade case.

Such a strategy would hurt Taiwanese cell makers like Motech and Gintech, which have been the principal beneficiaries of the 2012 ruling, as Chinese producers embraced the so-called Taiwan loophole.

Under the 25 July preliminary ruling, Taiwanese producers were hit with anti-dumping duties ranging from 27.6% to 44.2%.

Goldman Sachs analyst Brian Lee says that all-China modules from Tier 1 suppliers can currently sell in the US for $0.75/W-$0.80/W, even after including the recent duties.

Lee sees residential installer SolarCity, which he believes sources more than 90% of its modules from China, as one of the biggest losers from the ruling.

SolarCity has taken dramatic action to counteract the impact of more-expensive Chinese modules, including its recently announced plan to build a major module factory in the state of New York, and its recently announced supply deals with non-Chinese suppliers like Singapore’s REC Solar.