- The Department of Energy has launched a $3 million prize competition aimed at invigorating the United States' solar manufacturing sector just days after President Trump announced a 30% tariff on imported crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules and cells.
- The U.S. Department of Energy said the American Made Solar Prize "will incentivize the nation’s entrepreneurs" to develop new processes and products and will lower barriers to products reaching manufacturing scale.
- The competition aims to speed up innovation cycles through rapid prototyping and iteration by leveraging 3D printing and small-batch manufacturing facilities across the country. DOE is looking for a range of participants, including investors, software and hardware developers. No deadlines have been set thus far.
The solar tariffs came earlier this week as part of a months-long proceeding under a rarely used global safeguard measure of the Trade Act of 1974.
Two U.S.-based solar manufacturers had petitioned for import relief, blaming low-priced imports from mostly Chinese companies for their financial struggles. Both companies had filed for bankruptcy and insolvency. While the DOE's effort is one effort apart from the tariffs to help the manufacturing space, it's unclear how many jobs this will generate.
Of the solar industry's 260,000 jobs, manufacturing only composes roughly 14% or 38,000. The vast majority lies in installation. The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates the job losses will number 23,000 for this year, and result in "billions lost in investment." And many manufacturing jobs have been lost to automation, evidenced by a recent media report on domestic thin film manufacturer First Solar, a beneficiary of the tariffs.
But there are signs that some manufacturers are beginning to eye expansion in the U.S., Greentech Media reports. SolarWorld Americas, one of the petitioners whose German parent company filed for insolvency last year, told the media outlet it would continue its plans to ramp up production and continue hiring for its Oregon-based manufacturing base.