SolarCity/Silevo must pay duties on Chinese-made PV cells

In its final ruling, U.S. trade authorities have stated that SolarCity’s heterojunction silicon solar cells are subject to duties on Chinese-made cells.

Last Friday, the International Trade Association gave its final ruling on whether or not Silevo’s “Triex” heterojunction PV cells are subject to anti-dumping and anti-subsidy import duties on cells and modules imported from China. The result was the same as the preliminary ruling in April, and verified that SolarCity must pay duties on Triex cells made in China.

Triex cells are based on a heterojunction design, with a layer of crystalline silicon sandwiched between thin-film layers. Last Fall, SolarCity asked the U.S. Department of Commerce for an exemption from the duties on crystalline silicon solar cells, arguing that it makes a thin-film product. SolarWorld, which initially petitioned for the duties on Chinese-made PV cells, disputed this characterization.

Based upon limited language in the original ruling, it was necessary for ITA to consider several aspects of Silevo’s heterojunction design. However, in the final ruling the agency determined that Silevo’s p-i-n junction was within the umbrella of p-n junctions, and that the presence of a thin-film element did not override the presence of crystalline silicon.

Both of these aspects of the ruling could have implications for further rulings on heterojunction silicon PV cells made in China.

“This scope ruling sets an important precedent for the industry, by ensuring that crystalline silicon-based cells do not become classified as thin-film products merely by adding small layers of thin film to the front or the back of the cell,” said Tim Brightbill of Wily Rein LLP, who represented SolarWorld.

“As intended by petitioners, the next generation of crystalline-silicon solar cells and modules will be covered by these antidumping and countervailing duty orders.”

SolarCity is currently building the largest PV manufacturing facility in the Western Hemisphere in Buffalo, New York, which would produce Silevo cells and modules exempt from these duties. However, in recent quarterly filings SolarCity revealed that tool delivery for this factory is behind schedule.