Future of the U.S. Solar Industry

Chart 1: Import TarriffsIn January 2018, the United States established an import tariff on silicon solar cells and modules. These tariffs became effective on February 7, 2018 and will charge foreign producers 30% of the product’s value to enter U.S. markets. The tariffs will drop by 5% annually before expiring in 2022 (Chart 1). The first 2.5 gigawatts of solar cells are exempt from the tariffs (Duke SciPol, 2018). In addition to the solar module and cell tariffs, the U.S. recently announced a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% import on aluminum, which could add an additional 2%-5% to PV system costs (GTM Research, 2018).

According to Natter & Martin (2017) in Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the 30% tariff will increase photovoltaic (PV) solar module costs by roughly 10 cent/watt. Based on this estimate, the average module price would be around $0.41 per watt/DC which is still lower than the average module price in 2016 when the U.S. posted a record number of solar capacity installations. The impact of the import tariffs is expected to be more significant on the development of utility scale projects because the module cost accounts for an estimated 32% of the total utility scale solar installation cost. The impact is much less for other solar projects, as the module cost only accounts for 13% of residential installations and 19% of the commercial project (Chart 2).

Chart 2

Potential Implications

Now that the solar import tariffs are established, what are the implications to the solar manufacturers, installers, and consumers? “The tariffs could even the solar playing field from the perspective of manufacturing, but risk U.S. jobs in the solar installation and management industry while negatively impacting global trade agreements (Duke SciPol, 2018).” A tariff is essentially an additional tax applied to goods coming into a country in foreign trade. This will increase the price of the imported goods, thus protecting domestic manufacturers from unfair foreign competitive advantages such as low labor wages, dumping practices, or lower production costs due to lack of comparable environmental and safety regulations. In general, applying an import tariff to imported goods promotes domestic production and supports domestic employment. However, while a tariff can support domestic manufacturing, in some cases, a tariff can also increase the final price of the goods to consumers.

U.S. Solar Manufacturing Updates

Between 2012 and 2016, U.S. domestic PV solar module production expanded by 24 percent. Still, falling prices have caused more than 24 domestic PV producers to file bankruptcy or close their U.S. operations (Congressional Research Service, 2018). Following the implementation of the import tariffs, a 2018 Solar Industry Update Report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory summarized several examples of recent U.S. solar manufacturing activities. First, JinkoSolar confirmed plans to invest $50 million to build a 400 megawatt module assembly plant in Jacksonville, Florida. In addition, SunPower announced plans to purchase the SolarWorld Americas manufacturing facility in Oregon which offers solar cell production capacity of 430 megawatts with an additional 500 megawatts of module capacity. Finally, due largely to recent U.S. tax reform, First Solar announced a $400 million investment in Ohio and recently broke ground on a 1.2-GW capacity plant, employing 500 workers to manufacture its new Series 6 modules.

U.S. Solar Installation Trends

solar arrayThe United States posted a record year for PV solar installations in 2016 reaching 14.8 gigawatts (DC) of installed solar capacity. Just a year later, the U.S. experienced a 30% decline in installations, with a total of 10.6 gigawatts (DC) of solar capacity additions in 2017 (USDOE/EERE, 2018). Following the 2018 import tariff on solar module and cell imports, the U.S. solar market added 2.5 gigawatts of PV solar in the first quarter 2018, representing annual growth of 13%. Furthermore, the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report estimates that “solar’s growth in 2018 will mirror 2017’s 10.6 GW before growing more robustly in 2019 and then accelerating in the early 2020s (Solar Energy Industries Association, 2018).”

What Should We Expect In 2018?

There have been numerous cases made both supporting and contesting the future impacts of the solar import tariffs on the U.S. solar industry. Based on recent installations and pricing trends, I would suggest the industry has proven it can not only survive, but thrive at higher module price points. Remember, in 2016 the U.S. solar industry posted a record number of capacity installations when solar module prices were higher than the estimated 2018 module prices including the impact of the additional 30% import tariff.

By definition, the tariff will absolutely increase the cost of imported solar modules. However, as described above it is a percentage-based tariff that is scheduled to decrease over time. In addition, the cost of solar modules has decreased significantly since 2010, a trend that is expected to continue. As a result, the impact on solar module prices should be the greatest in 2018, then decreasing each year as the actual price of solar modules continues to fall, combined with reduced tariff rates. While the import tariffs will likely reduce the number of utility scale projects, it is important to remember there are other factors affecting solar industry development. For example, state and local government policy and goals as well as utility rules and regulations will greatly influence the future development of renewable energy projects.        

Interested in Learning More About Solar? . . . Join Us at Farm Science Review!

The 2018 Farm Science Review (FSR) is September 18-20 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center near London, Ohio. Farm Science Review offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the latest agricultural innovations from experts from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

If you’re interested in learning more about photovoltaic solar energy and peak energy demand management on your farm, there’s a place just for you at Farm Science Review: Ohio State’s Energy Tent. Inside, you’ll find displays and information on solar energy, peak demand energy, anaerobic digestion (which turns food waste and manure, for example, into biogas), and biobased products and materials, like those made from soybeans and corn. CFAES experts will be on hand and available to answer your questions.

The OSU Energy Tent is located at the corner of Kottman Street and Land Avenue. For additional information, please click here to view the most up-to-date interactive map of the 2018 Farm Science Review exhibit area.


Congressional Research Service. (2018, Feberuary ). Domestic Solar Manufacturing and New U.S. Tariffs. Retrieved from Federation of American Scientists: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/IF10819.pdf

Feldman, D., Hoskins, J., & Margolis, R. (2018, May). Q4 2017/Q1 2018 Solar Industry Update. Retrieved from National Renewable Energy Laboratory : https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy18osti/71493.pdf

Duke SciPol. “Trump Administration’s Imposition of Tariffs on Imported Solar Cells and Modules” available at http://scipol.duke.edu/content/trump-administrations-imposition-tariffs-imported-solar-cells-and-modules  (03/23/2018).

Natter, A., & Martin, C. (2017). U.S. Solar Developers Relieved at Small Import Tariff Proposals. Retrieved from Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-31/u-s-trade-panel-proposes-duties-of-up-to-35-in-solar-case-j9frwy6w

Office of the United States Trade Representative. (2018). Section 201 Cases: Imported Large Residential Washing Machines and Imported Solar Cells and Modules. Washington D.C.: Executive Office of the President.

Pyper, J., 2018.  GTM Research Steel and Aluminum Tariffs Could Add 2 Cents per Watt to Utility-Scale Solar Projects. https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/steel-aluminum-tariffs-could-add-2-cents-per-watt-to-utility-scale-solar#gs.oJRSsU4

Solar Energy Industries Association. (2018). Solar Market Insight Report 2018 Q2. Retrieved from Research and Resources: https://www.seia.org/research-resources/solar-market-insight-report-2018-q2

Solar Energy Industries Association. (2018, June). US Solar Market Adds 2.5 GW of PV in Q1 2018, Growing 13% Year-Over-Year. Retrieved from Solar Energy Industries Association News Center: https://www.seia.org/news/us-solar-market-adds-25-gw-pv-q1-2018-growing-13-year-over-year

U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (USDOE/EERE). (2018, May). Quarterly Solar Industry Update. Retrieved from Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office: https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/quarterly-solar-industry-update

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration (USDOE/EIA), (2018).  Tax credits and solar tariffs affect timing of projected renewable power plant deployment https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=36212

Eric Romich

Eric Romich is an Associate Professor and Extension Field Specialist, Energy Development.

You Want What/When?!

time managementOh no, there’s that email again reminding me that my blog is due! When will I find the time to write about what I do? Yes, I hear all of the many organized people out there thinking, “Here is a great candidate for Time Management training.” Been there-done that and actually did pick up some good pointers to help keep the many demands of life activities well organized. A few of these timely time saving tips follow:

Prioritize:  Each Friday afternoon, I review my workload (or at least the items I remembered to write down) and prioritize for the upcoming week. Then along comes Monday, and by noon that workload list has been completely disrupted by other more pressing emergencies. When trying to define activities as “important and urgent” as Stephen Covey recommends in his book First Things First, I find everything screams they are both urgent and important.

Assign a time for email: This is a great tip except for extremely optimistic people like me who believe we are just an email away from the one that will eliminate a task from our workload. What if I failed to open an email as soon as I got it and it was one of my colleagues asking if they could have the opportunity to write this week’s blog for me?!

Delegate: I’m a pro at this technique. The only problem is that the only person to delegate work to is myself. Let’s face it, delegating to someone who admittedly does not manage time efficiently is an inefficient strategy.

Multitasking doesn’t work: Certainly this must be a myth! If I do more than one thing at once, doesn’t that mean I’ll get more done? Susan Weinschenk, PhD, in an article in Psychology Today entitled “The True Cost Of Multi-Tasking,” reported that you can lose up to 40% productivity by multitasking. She advised that instead of multitasking, we are really task switching. Well, that explains why I never seem to make progress on my to-do list, and why it seems my mind is a constant stream of tumultuous thoughts.

Time flies when you are having fun:  Even though this may not be an actual time management skill, it helps keep in perspective your accomplishments versus your ability to manage both the internal and external daily chaos. Time spent pursuing a goal keeps us motivated and our minds occupied creating the sensation that time is passing quickly.

The time was allotted and the blog completed in a lighthearted manner. When you read it, I hope you enjoy what I have written and smile as you relate it to your life of pressures and deadlines.  While managing one’s time is important for productivity, of equal importance is the ability to enjoy life. I am blessed to have a rewarding job that allows my work to positively impact many lives. I hope you are as fortunate.

Darlene LukshinDarlene Lukshin is a Program Specialist for OSU Extension in Washington County.

Cuyahoga River Area of Concern Bi-Annual Symposium Scheduled for October 26

It’s time again for Cuyahoga River stakeholders, watershed stewards, and anyone else who is interested in the health of the Cuyahoga to get together and learn what’s happening in the Area of Concern (AOC) at the 2018 Cuyahoga River AOC Symposium! The Symposium provides a forum for sharing ideas, reviewing Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI) status, showcasing successes and challenges, reviewing recent developments affecting the AOC program and strengthening linkages among state and local AOC participants.

Cuyahoga River Area of Concern (AOC)

Cuyahoga River Area of Concern (AOC)

Not only will we talk about all the progress that has been made in the Cuyahoga River watershed, but we’ll also hear from a panel of experts on new developments and future projects. There is a lot to celebrate this year, especially given that the United States Environmental Protection Agency recently approved the removal of “Degradation of Aesthetics” and “Public Access and Recreation Impairments” from the list of Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) in the Cuyahoga River Area of Concern (AOC). This suggests that aesthetics have improved dramatically in the decades since the Cuyahoga was named one of the 27 federally-designated U.S. waterways that have experienced severe environmental degradation. Public access and recreation have been helped by the development of trails, rowing clubs, fishing areas, boating and paddle sport amenities, and dining and entertainment facilities that now line the river banks.

Symposium attendees will have an opportunity to discuss all of the work being done to restore the river, to connect with a wide variety of partners and interested stakeholders, and to contribute to the progress being made. The Symposium will take place on Friday, October 26 from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Cuyahoga Falls Natatorium. Registration is $35 per person and includes coffee, breakfast snacks and lunch, table talks, panels, and a whole lot of updates on how we’re getting closer every day to delisting the entire Cuyahoga River AOC.

Cuyahoga River AOC Advisory Committee

Cuyahoga River AOC Advisory Committee

For additional information, please visit the website for the AOC’s facilitating organization, Cuyahoga River Restoration and the Cuyahoga River Area of Concern Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee is made up of representatives from Ohio Sea Grant and other organizations including nonprofit community groups, businesses, government agencies, and local residents concerned with the health of the watershed.

Scott Hardy is an Extension Educator for the Ohio Sea Grant College Program.

Elder Care: It Takes a Village

Senior care

Seniors rely on their caregivers, often building lasting relationships.

If you have an aging loved one — grandparent, parent, aunt, uncle, or family friend – living in a senior nursing community or being cared for at home by a home health organization, the people performing the most menial-sounding jobs may be the most important people in their lives. They are the van driver who takes them for a day out to the mall or to the clinic for dialysis; the laundry worker who picks up their dirty clothes every morning and brings them back clean and carefully hung or folded; the activities director who brings music, art and crafts to engage their minds, bodies and hearts; the housekeeper who cleans the floor no matter what mess s/he encounters. They also are the groundskeeper who mows the lawn and manicures the flower beds; the custodian who hangs a new memento on the wall; the hairdresser who keeps them neatly groomed.

My mother spent the final eight years of her life in a nursing facility. That became her permanent home, and almost everyone treated her as if she owned the place. She knew most of the staff by name and would share with me her interactions with them. It became clear after a few months that she only spoke in detail about the employees that I mentioned in the first paragraph. The nurses and aides, of course, were giving her the physical caring she needed to stay healthy, yet the non-clinical staff were the people she told me about. She knew about their marital status and family life, what they did on their non-working time, and their favorite hobbies. Mom didn’t get to know the clinical staff on the same personal level; they had many residents who demanded their expertise, and her interactions with clinical staff were focused on medical needs.

The next time you visit your aging loved one living in a senior community, pay attention to the staff:  not only those who are giving the meds or changing bedpans, but also those working behind the scenes to make life more comfortable for the residents.

Elder Care Certificate

Alber Enterprise Center has created a new training program for those on the front lines who would like some help understanding the challenges of the elders in their care. The Elder Care Certificate program, designed for anyone who cares for or interacts with older adults, is a wealth of information about issues facing our aging population. This program will transform the way participants work with elders and enhance their status as caring individuals. Participants will gain expertise in dealing with the aging population, will have a better understanding of the challenges seniors face, and will be better equipped with the interpersonal tools to function as contributing members of a caring team. The modules include topics in gerontology, personal effectiveness, communication, problem-solving, and leadership/customer service skills.

The 16-hour pilot program was delivered in 2017, and the 14 participants who were randomly selected to experience the program offered high praise for their experience. One stated, “The thing that touched and inspired us the most is that it changed our attitudes and the way we look at our residents.”  Another commented: “What is the #1 thing that I will use in the future? Listening:  Making each resident or coworker feel that they are very important and have my undivided attention.”

Alber Enterprise Center is in the process of licensing the curriculum through the university’s Technology Commercialization Office. To assure that the training is delivered to as many workers as possible throughout Ohio, the Center is seeking Extension educators who would like to become certified trainers for this program and offer it in their counties. For more information, contact Anne Johnson.6754@osu.edu or Myra Wilson.2025@osu.edu.

Myra WilsonMyra Wilson is the Program Director for the Alber Enterprise Center.

Ready, Set, 360°!

While it may be difficult to comprehend, entertainment consumes a large portion of Americans’ lives.

In 2016, Americans were consuming entertainment media (viewing television, the Internet, mobile apps, etc.) for 10 hours and 39 minutes per day (Koblin, 2016). Therefore, the average American was consuming 306,315.3 hours of entertainment programming in their lifetime (44.3 percent of the average life expectancy calculated at 78.8 years) (Stein, 2016).

How many hours of entertainment have you consumed today?

When you stop to think how many times you have looked at your social media, personal email, or YouTube, it’s not such a stretch to see how many Americans accumulate 10 hours and 39 minutes of entertainment consumption in a day. Internet content is expected to consist of 82 percent of video traffic by 2020, which will also significantly increase the time spent by Americans consuming entertainment yearly (Cisco Visual Networking Index, 2016).

Particularly in the agricultural industry, where less than 2 percent of the nation’s population identifies as a farmer, communication and public relations efforts will rely on messages delivered via entertainment media. Due to the large number of non-farmers in the United States, it is essential for the agricultural industry to utilize transparency in their communication strategies as well as keep up with emerging entertainment trends. Millennials are considered the driving force behind many of the current food trends. They are also the first generation to grow up with the internet, and they desire transparent communications about agriculture and their food (G. Johnson, 2016).

One way to have transparency in communications is the use of virtual reality. Virtual reality (VR) seems like it is something out of a futuristic movie, like Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One (2018). However, the future of VR technology is already available and is gaining popularity with educational institutions through the implementation of virtual field trips.

VR is a concept that encompasses several kinds of immersive media that is typically viewed by wearing a headset. The two main components of VR media are 360° videos and augmented reality (AR). The 360° videos are able to provide viewers with an interactive view of the scene.  AR is where the viewer has a live view of what is around them, but has additional computer generated (CG) graphics or audio incorporated over the live view.

As a Millennial, a farmer, an agricultural communicator, and an Extension Educator, I love the opportunity to share educational information via videos. I believe one way to have true transparency of video messages is through the use of 360° video. This allows the viewer to have the full picture – there’s nothing cropped or hidden from view. Viewers of 360° videos are able to have a true virtual experience of the scene they are viewing.

I have had the opportunity to use two 360° video cameras to create several videos for upcoming projects. At the Highland County Fair, September 1-8, 2018, I will be demonstrating VR videos. The video shown below is a 360° video highlighting aerial application of fungicide, the Fallsville Wildlife Area waterfall, my cat (Mr. Socks), and the Hillsboro 4th of July Fireworks finale. If you are viewing the video on a computer, use the circular toggle on the upper left corner to change the perspective of the video. If you are using a mobile device, move your phone around to change the view or use your fingers to drag the screen in multiple directions. The best way to view a 360° video is with a VR headset. If you have access to a VR headset, use the split-screen function to view the video for the optimal experience.

Here are some tips for making your own VR videos:

  • Have a good, stable tripod.
  • Be close to the action of the scene, as there is currently no zoom function on 360° cameras.
  • Remember to bring your camera charger if you are planning on a long video shoot.
  • If you are filming in a windy area, utilize a secondary audio source.
  • Use SD cards that have large amounts of available space because the file sizes of high definition 360° videos are large.
  • Allow for more time to edit 360° video content. The GoPro Fusion camera requires two SD cards and needs additional time to render.

If you are interested in viewing more 360° videos, there are an increasing number of 360° videos online. The New York Times has a channel called the Daily 360, National Geographic made the first 360° video in space with the help of astronaut Paolo Nespoli, and Google offers Google Expeditions. You can also find other 360° videos on YouTube.

Individuals attending the Highland County Fair this year will have the opportunity to view a different video with a VR headset. The video shown at the fair will highlight agricultural production and the Highland County community. For more information about 360° video production or when the video will be available at the Highland County Fair, contact Brooke Beam at beam.49@osu.edu or at 937-393-1918.


Cisco Visual Networking Index. (2016, June 1). White paper: Cisco VNI Forecast and Methodology, 2015-2020. Retrieved April 17, 2017, from Cisco: http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/service-provider/visual networkingindex-vni/complete-white-paper-c11-481360.html

Drake, N. (2018, April 16). Exclusive: How We Made the First 3-D Virtual Reality Video in Space. National Geographic. Retrieved from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/04/making-first-360-video-space-nespoli-one-strange-rock-science/

Johnson, G. (2016a, February). Food Trends: Consumers Want Healthy, Local Foods. Successful  Farming.

Koblin, J. (2016b, June 8). Netflix Studied Your Binge-Watching Habit. That Didn’t Take Long. Retrieved May 12, 2017, from The New York Times:    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/09/business/media/netflix-studied-your-bingewatching-habit-it-didnt-take-long.html

Lei, J. (2017, July 19). Adventures abound: Explore Google Expeditions on your own. Google Blogs. Retrieved from https://www.blog.google/products/expeditions/adventures-abound -explore-google-expeditions-your-own/

Spielberg, S. (2018). Ready Player One [Motion Picture].

Stein, R. (2016, December 8). Life Expectancy in U.S. Drops For First Time In Decades, Report  Finds. Retrieved May 14, 2017, from NPR: http://www.npr.org/sections/health     shots/2016/12/08/504667607/life-expectancy in-u-s-drops-for-first-time-in-decadesreport-finds

The New York Times. (2018). The Daily 360. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/video/the-daily-360

Brooke Beam is a County Extension Educator, Highland County.