Responding to a complaint filed last year by some U.S.-based solar manufacturers, the U.S. Commerce Department has deemed that the Chinese government provided Chinese solar panel manufacturers unfair subsidies, resulting in artificially low prices for Chinese solar products and a competitive advantage on the global market. The U.S. will be imposing a tariff ranging from 2.9% to 4.37% on Chinese solar products in an effort to raise their prices and level the playing field for U.S. manufacturers.

Advocates on both sides of the issue cited Commerce’s decision as a victory. “We support free trade without government intervention,” said Gordon Brinser, the president of the U.S. unit of SolarWorld AG (SWV), which brought the complaint, “and clearly there has been illegal Chinese government interference.” [Forbes]

The Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, which opposes the tariffs, said that the tariffs would “increase prices and cost U.S. jobs.” However, Coalition president Jigar Shaw said that the low tariffs are “a victory for the solar industry. The government of China was found innocent of all charges, that’s what low tariffs mean.”

A recent report states that the U.S. market for solar power has grown substantially over the past few years – jumping to a record 1,855 MW, or $8.4 billion, of installed photovoltaic projects in 2011 – and is expect to continue to grow in 2012. According to the Commerce Department, “the U.S. imported $3.1 billion worth of solar cells from China in 2011.” [Forbes]

How will these tariffs impact the U.S. solar market? How will they impact U.S. solar manufacturers?

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