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Pennsylvania solar projects held up by federal probe, group says

Matt Slocum

A solar industry trade group is warning the threat of tariffs on imported panels is already starting to affect businesses in the commonwealth and across the country.

The U.S. Commerce Department is trying to find out if China is avoiding tariffs on solar panels by setting up factories in four countries in Southeast Asia.

Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam supply the U.S. with the bulk of its solar materials. If those countries fall subject to tariffs, industry groups say that will hurt efforts to increase solar power here.

Start your morning with today's news on Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.

The Solar Energy Industries Association surveyed more than 700 companies across the country since the investigation was announced in March.

In Pennsylvania, it found 79 percent of responding companies have had panel shipments delayed or canceled. The supply chain for about half of the state’s utility-scale solar projects is disrupted.

SEIA said 330 megawatts worth of projects have been delayed or canceled in the commonwealth.

Pennsylvania has a total generation capacity of more than 48,000 MW. It takes 1 MW to power about 200 homes.

SEAI said added taxes could cost the industry up to 100,000 jobs nationwide.

It also claimed tariffs will cause solar capacity to fall short of Biden’s goal to get the country to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035.

The Biden Administration did not respond to a request for comment.

Some Pennsylvania communities have been grappling with whether they want to welcome large solar projects.

While a few have gone up with no debate, others have drawn a dividing line between neighbors.

Supervisors in Mount Joy Township, near Gettysburg, voted last year to deny a key permit to a planned 75 MW project. In Lebanon County, North Annville Township Supervisors voted this month to not allow a similarly-sized project there.

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among WESA, The Allegheny Front, WITF and WHYY.