On January 29, 2018, just a week before President Donald Trump announced tariffs of up to 30 percent on imports of solar panels, China’s JinkoSolar announced it was opening a new plant in the U.S.
The company said its board of directors had given the go-ahead to “finalize planning for the construction of an advanced solar manufacturing facility in the U.S.”
Since that announcement and the confirmation that the new plant will be constructed in Jacksonville, Florida, the company has signed a mammoth solar supply agreement to the tune of 1.43 gigawatts (GW) with the largest private solar operator in the US.
The agreement, signed on June 7, is a three-year, 1.43 GW solar supply agreement with Salt Lake City-based sPower, the largest private owner and operator of solar assets in the United States.
“We have had a strong track record of success with JinkoSolar’s high quality and reliable modules, which is why we have signed another deal,” explained Ryan Creamer, CEO of sPower. “JinkoSolar’s technology roadmap and cost leadership are also strong enablers for our future projects, and we look forward to maintaining our strong partnership.”
Company not affected by the latest round of tariffs
Now that Trump has threatened to slap a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion of Chinese goods in addition to import duties previously announced on $50 billion in goods, the fears of an all-out trade war have hit the financial markets and have led to China threatening retaliation.
However, Jeff Juger, the business development director of JinkoSolar, said the $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese products “do not impact our operation in Florida because all the cells we’re going to import (to the plant) come from Malaysia.”
As for the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration earlier this year, Juger said the Jacksonville plant would take advantage of an exemption that allows U.S. manufacturers to import 2.5 gigawatts of tariff-free cells for use in manufacturing solar modules at American plants.
“The 2.5-gigawatt exemption gives us quite a bit of headroom to import tariff-free cells,” he said on a panel at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum held in New York June 19 and 20.
Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the conference, Juger said JinkoSolar was applying for an exclusion to the cell import tariffs that would allow it to import a large-format solar cell from Malaysia.
JinkoSolar recently unveiled its 410W Cheetah module – the world’s highest-performing commercially available monofacial solar module. JinkoSolar is the only manufacturer in the world that makes the cell in question.
“If the government grants that exclusion request and lets us import these cells, it will allow us to further scale up the factory in Florida,” he said. We just have to persevere no matter what the circumstances,” Juger said. “The decision to invest in the Florida factory is a testament to our commitment to the U.S. market.”