Solar investment falls in midst of erupting trade war


Tesla and SolarCity solar farm on Ta'u, American Samoa

Tesla and SolarCity solar farm on Ta'u, American Samoa

Electric cars and solar power fit together like a hand in a glove. Charging with solar power, electric cars can drive using almost no non-renewable energy.

Now according to a report in Bloomberg New Energy Finance last week, solar investment has dropped by 19 percent worldwide in the second quarter following a trade war between China and the U.S. that includes a 30 percent tariff on Chinese solar panels imported to the U.S. The new tariffs took effect in February.

Digging a little further into the data reveals that new investments in renewable energy aren't as dire as a quick glance at those numbers may indicate.

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The drop is measured in dollars, and much of it comes from a drop in the price of solar panels after China eliminated government subsidies for solar installations in preparation for the tariffs, effectively flooding the global market with solar panels.

Investment in the huge Chinese solar market was down 15 percent from last year.

Measured in gigawatts installed, solar installations looked relatively flat. Bloomberg NEF forecasts installations of between 95 and 107 gigawatts in 2018, compared with 98 gigawatts in 2017.

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Pietro Radoia, senior solar analyst at BNEF, said, “It will also mean overcapacity in solar manufacturing globally, and yet steeper price falls."

Honda wind farm in Brazil

Honda wind farm in Brazil

Increasing investments in wind power nearly offset the drop in solar investments. Wind investment rose 33 percent compared with last year, to $57.2 billion.

The U.S. launched a dramatic expansion of wind power, investing 121 percent more than last year.

While construction of wind farms lags behind investments more than it does with solar, the power produced by wind power was up 11.5 percent from last year, from 52 to 58 gigawatts.

In 2017, wind and solar accounted for about 8 percent of power production in the U.S., according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Including other sources such as hydropower, renewables made up just over 17 percent of U.S. electricity production.

 
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