SolarCity suffers initial US setback in Triex cell trade case

The US Department of Commerce (DOC) has issued a preliminary ruling which finds Triex cells manufactured by SolarCity subsidiary Silevo should be subject to the same trade duties as other Chinese PV cells.

The case hinges on whether SolarCity’s cells – based on technology it acquired when it bought Silevo in 2014 – are thin-film or crystalline silicon (c-Si).

Two years earlier, DOC imposed significant anti-dumping and countervailing duties on Chinese c-Si cells and modules, but thin-film PV products made in China are exempt.

Last September, SolarCity had requested an exemption from the duties arguing that even though Silevo’s cells use a c-Si substrate, it then adds amorphous silicon thin-film layers to the product.

“SolarCity argues that Triex cells are explicitly excluded from the scope of the Orders because Triex cells are thin film products,” DOC’s International Trade Administration (ITA) notes in its initial “scope ruling.”

While ITA is not scheduled to issue a final ruling until 23 June, its apparent rebuff of SolarCity’s stance would represent another trade win here for Germany’s SolarWorld, which successfully petitioned for the US duties on Chinese solar products in 2011.

In this case, it argued that Silevo modules are in essence based on c-SI technology and should be subject to US duties. 

SolarCity is building a large plant in upstate New York State that will manufacture Silevo's PV cells and modules.

Based in Oregon, SolarWorld’s subsidiary bills itself as “America’s largest solar manufacturer since 1975.”