Susan Decker and Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg
Two of America’s biggest solar-farm owners are warning that a patent dispute between panel makers could roil a sector already shaken by President Donald Trump’s import tariffs.
NextEra Energy Inc. and Consolidated Edison Inc. said in filings that future solar development could be jeopardized if Hanwha Q Cells prevails in barring imports into the U.S. from rivals it says infringes its patents. Con Ed warned the move could trigger “significant job losses” in solar.
The comments to the U.S. International Trade Commission underscore the solar industry’s desire for stability after tariffs on imported equipment announced by Trump in early 2018 led to months of uncertainty. More than a dozen companies wrote to the trade commission, urging it not to block imports as it rules on Hanwha’s complaint.
The ITC, a quasi-judicial agency that enforces fair trade practices in U.S. markets, has authority to block imports. It asked for input on how the case would affect the solar industry as part of its standard practice when investigating complaints.
Hanwha, a Seoul-based company that recently opened a factory in Georgia, said it’s only seeking to limit imports to the U.S. of a specific type of solar cell. JinkoSolar, Longi and REC have denied infringing the patents.
The ITC is likely to announce within weeks whether it will open a full investigation. A probe could take up to 18 months.
The ITC case is In the Matter of Certain Photovoltaic Cells and Products Covering Same, 337-3369, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).