LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Solar energy is booming in the United States, but companies riding the wave fear that President Donald Trump could undercut them with new tariffs on imported solar panels.
A green-technology research firm estimates that tariffs could cost up to 88,000 U.S. jobs related to installing solar-power systems.
Darean Nguyen is a married father with three children who says the solar industry has transformed his life.
“It opened up a lot of doors for me.”
At 53, Juan Alonso, has been having a hard time finding a job, but he says that is about to change.
“Really my second wind.”
They are among 1,300 workers who have learned how to install solar panels at Grid Alternatives, a non-profit company that puts up solar panels for people who are economically disadvantaged, while at the same training workers like Alonso how to do the installation.
Grid Alternatives Executive Director Michael Kadish says:
“Here in L.A. alone we have 16,000 solar jobs, it’s the most of any county in America.”
So president Trump’s decision to put a 30 percent tariff on solar panels imported from other countries could make it difficult for people like Nguyen and Alonso to keep their jobs.
“Most of those are installer jobs so when we raise the price of panels what we do is make it harder to do business,” Kadish says.
Kadish says the vast majority of people working in the solar industry are installing the panels. While only a tiny fraction of Americans work for companies that make them. And he says the 30 percent tariff on foreign panels will drive the cost up for consumers — convincing many not to buy them.
“To think of solar as a manufacturing business in the U.S. is misguided,” Kadish says.” It’s an installation business and a sales business and these are the jobs that can’t be exported.”
But a spokesman for Solarworld Americas incorporated, a German-owned company which makes solar panels in the United States, says in part:
“The U.S. is the second largest solar market in the world and yet almost all u.s. manufacturers have been put out of business by china… with president Trump’s response, we hope this dynamic starts to change.”
The Associated Press Contributed To This Report