SunPower Set to Create New Photovoltaic Production Facility in U.S.

(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump wanted more U.S. solar-power manufacturing jobs when he cracked down on imports — now he’s getting them.

SunPower Corp. will announce in about three weeks plans for a U.S. photovoltaic production plant to make some of the panels it now makes abroad, Chief Executive Officer Tom Werner said Friday in a phone interview. The U.S.-based company currently makes most of its power-generating panels in Asia and Mexico.

The choice of location is between two sites in two western states, Werner said. Production would begin in less than 10 months, and the company will speed that up by selecting an unused, existing plant. But it’s too soon to disclose manufacturing capacity or employment at the new facility, he said.

“This is a decision driven by the direction that this administration wants to go,” Werner said.

Tariffs were a factor, and SunPower, based in San Jose, California, will continue a tariff exemption request for other equipment it imports, Werner said. So was capturing market share in the U.S. West, where panels are most in demand, he said. Photovoltaic Production in the United States would partially exempt SunPower from the 30% tariff’s that President Trump levied earlier this year against solar panel importers whose Photovoltaic Production is done in foreign markets.

photovoltaic production by country

The news comes hours after China-based JinkoSolar Holding Co. said it will open a plant in Jacksonville, Florida, that will employ 200 people making 7 million solar panels over four years for NextEra Energy Inc., owner of the state’s largest utility.

When he enacted the tariffs in January, Trump said the duties will encourage solar manufacturing in the U.S. “Our action today helps to create jobs in America, for Americans,” he said.

Should SunPower build the photovoltaic production plant in the U.S. they can make the claim that thier panels are made in America, potentially removing the tariffs levied by the President earlier this year.

SunPower seeks tariff waiver, cites plan for U.S. expansion

SunPower seeks tariff waiver, cites plan for U.S. expansion

(Reuters) – SunPower Corp ( SPWR.O ) on Friday asked the Trump administration to exempt a segment of its solar panel imports from new tariffs, saying the move would allow it to reverse proposed investment cuts and ease plans to expand U.S. panel manufacturing. […]

The request by SunPower, which is majority owned by France’s Total SA (TOTF.PA), marks the first attempt by a major U.S. solar company to sidestep a controversial 30 percent levy on imported panels announced by President Donald Trump in January.

Trump had said the tariff would boost U.S. manufacturing, but many in the industry have warned of higher costs and thousands of layoffs in the much-bigger installation end of the solar industry.

“We understand the administration’s goals,” SunPower Chief Executive Tom Werner said in an interview. “We think we can contribute positively to those objectives.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It could not determined which other companies had filed such requests with the U.S. Trade Representative by the deadline on Friday.

SunPower’s request covers only its imported premium, high-efficiency panels, and not the less efficient and cheaper “P-series” panels which dominate the market, Werner said.

San Jose, California-based SunPower manufactures most of its panels in the Philippines and Mexico.

Werner said an exemption would allow SunPower to “materially” reverse a decision made immediately after the tariff announcement in January to cancel a $20 million investment in its next-generation cell technology that would have created hundreds of jobs in California and Texas . SunPower last month said the tariff would force it to cut 150 to 250 non-manufacturing jobs.

The cheaper P-series panels could be made at a new U.S. facility that the company would build, probably in the Southwest, Werner said, noting that SunPower was in the process of narrowing down its options to two locations.

“This is not hypothetical. We’re ready to make this happen,” he said, adding that an exemption for premium panel imports would “facilitate” this plan.

A big investment in solar panel manufacturing as a result of the tariff would mark a win for the Trump administration, but so far the industry remains focused on the fate of the installation business, which employs tens of thousands of people.

Only China’s JinkoSolar (JKS.N) has said it plans to build a U.S. manufacturing facility, and SolarWorld, one of the panel producers behind the trade case that resulted in the tariffs, has said it will hire 200 employees this year.

Suniva, the bankrupt company that first petitioned the administration in April to impose tariffs, has not publicly outlined its plans.

The exemption request will undergo a 30-day comment period before the U.S. Trade Representative makes a decision.