Solar panel manufacturing (Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images).

Solar-panel makers had an awful 2018, but their customers really enjoyed it.

Module manufacturers lost about 40 percent of their market value this year, even as the number of installations hit another record. The problem? Most makers are having to sell solar modules for below cost to compete with Chinese suppliers. That’s helped buyers of solar power, which in some cases is now cheaper than fossil fuel-powered energy.

After a cataclysmic 2018 — which began with Trump tariffs on imported equipment and got worse when China abruptly ended subsidies for solar installations — solar companies are facing 2019 with continuing cost constraints but the promise of increasing demand.

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