“The Suniva effect” stalls $100 million project in Texas

As the solar industry anxiously holds its breath awaiting the final recommendations from the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) to President Donald J. Trump on how harsh tariffs should be imposed on imported solar modules, one 100 MW, $100 million solar farm near Fort Stockton, Texas, is on hold.

The Dallas News reports that McCarthy Building Companies, the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firm engaged to build the project, has been told not to start construction on the project until the price of modules has been clarified at the federal level. While the project hasn’t been canceled yet, a company spokesman told the news outlet it had seen other projects canceled amid uncertainty surrounding module prices.

The spokesman added that almost every one of its clients has informed the company of the same thing – hold off on beginning construction until module prices are stabilized, including more than $400 million canceled projects across the country.

pv magazine first reported on “the Suniva effect” in July, when it first started hearing that project developers were hoarding solar modules to head off significant price hikes and were increasingly reluctant to sign final contracts on even fully funded projects because of price instability in the module market.

While the residential and small commercial markets have been less affected by the uncertainty because modules make up a less significant percentage of overall project costs, utility-scale projects like Fort Stockton have seen a significant slowdown – a situation likely only to get worse if the USITC recommends to the president that he should impose significant sanctions on non-U.S. manufactured crystalline-silicon (c-Si) modules, the most common modules in use in the United States.

As the petitioners who brought the trade case back in March have argued, more than 20 U.S. c-Si manufacturers have gone out of business in the past five years, meaning high sanctions on imported modules could severely restrict module availability for projects like the one in Fort Stockton.