Chinese Export Surge Clouds U.S. Hopes of a Domestic Solar Boom

Less than a year ago, CubicPV, which manufactures components for solar panels, announced that it had secured more than $100 million in financing to build a $1.4 billion factory in the United States. The company planned to produce silicon wafers, a critical part of the technology that allows solar panels to turn sunlight into electrical energy.

The Massachusetts-based company called the investment a “direct result of the long-term industrial policy contained within the Inflation Reduction Act,” the 2022 law that directed billions of dollars to develop America’s domestic clean energy sectors. CubicPV was considering locations in Texas, where it would employ about 1,000 workers.

But a surge of cheap solar panels from China upended that project. In February, CubicPV canceled its plans to build the factory over concerns it would no longer be financially viable thanks to a flood of Chinese exports. As CubicPV was gearing up to make wafers in the United States, prices of those components were dropping by 70 percent.

The setback underscores the concerns rippling across the U.S. solar industry and within the Biden administration about whether President Biden’s industrial policy agenda can succeed. Top administration officials have begun warning that efforts to finance a domestic clean energy industry are being undermined by a surge of cheaper Chinese exports that are driving down prices and putting the United States at a competitive disadvantage.

The fate of the CubicPV factory is the type of outcome that Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen has warned is likely if China does not stop dumping heavily subsidized green energy products into global markets at rock bottom prices. She took that message to China last week, warning that its industrial strategy was warping supply chains and threatening American workers.

China appeared to dismiss those concerns. Following Ms. Yellen’s meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang, his office said, “The development of China’s new energy industry will make an important contribution to the worldwide green and low-carbon transition.”

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