Array Technologies: There is no substitute for a strong domestic industry

This article marks another in our ongoing series of articles in which solar industry participants discuss the Section 201 trade case and what, if any, effects it will have once President Donald J. Trump makes a final decision on what penalties to impose on foreign c-Si module imports.

Array Technologies, a U.S. single-axis tracking manufacturer based in New Mexico, was part of a coalition of racking, mounting and tracking manufacturers that expressed its opposition to the trade petition early. With a final decision by the president mere weeks away, we decided to touch base with Array’s Founder and CEO Ron Corio to see where his company stands now.

 

pv magazine: The racking-and-mounting segment came together as a group to oppose the petition. What was the argument, and why did the segment feel strongly enough to mount its own campaign against it?  

Ron Corio: Many of the system component suppliers, such as mounting equipment, electrical and other balance of system components, manufacture their products here in the United States. We represent a significant part of the industry and employ more American workers than the U.S. crystalline solar module manufacturers that are in support of the trade case.

This trade case is likely to disrupt the entire solar supply chain therefore it is important that the US government understand the number of manufacturing jobs it is likely to destroy with this trade action. A tariff on imported solar modules will likely set the U.S. solar industry back while the rest of the world is expanding its deployment of clean solar energy. Furthermore, Array Technologies is a major international supplier and benefits from a healthy U.S. home market operating at scale to continue to innovate its products and effectively compete in the global marketplace.

 

pv magazine: Were you surprised by the USITC’s finding of injury?

Corio: After 28 years in the solar industry, nothing really surprises me about government policy towards renewable energy. Government policy seems to vacillate between promoting renewable industry growth in an effort to reduce carbon emissions and supporting opposing industry political influences that stifle our growth. It makes for a very bumpy ride commonly known in the industry as the “solar coaster”.

 

pv magazine: How does Array expect the ruling to affect it directly?

Corio: We expect a major pause in U.S. utility-scale power plant development and deployment, which will result in a significant reduction in our U.S. manufacturing operations. We estimate that significant penalties may result in a reduction of our workforce as large as one third to one half, if not more. 

 

pv magazine: What is Array’s contingency plan to mitigate the effects of a deleterious ruling?

Corio: Array has been globalizing its sales and operations for a few years now. The world is waking up to solar and there are many foreign markets to which we are supplying or are prepared to supply tracking systems. Our contingency plan, if significant penalties are levied, is to continue to focus on foreign markets to survive. However, although these foreign markets are important to our company’s future growth, there is still no substitute for a strong domestic market.

 

pv magazine: Will the U.S. industry survive?

Corio: We believe that solar energy will be a mega-trend in energy for the foreseeable future since it is cost effective, clean and renewable. The U.S. solar industry is also resilient – we will survive short-sighted political actions and ultimately thrive because solar energy simply makes the most sense long term as a sustainable, clean energy source.

 

Interview conducted by Frank Andorka